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March 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 31, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Death Attributed to Rental Gear

from the March, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Many of our readers and well-traveled divers prefer these days to rent some if not all of their gear at their destination, hoping to avoid both outlandish baggage charges and schlepping heavy bags. Of course, Undercurrent readers are experienced and travel to reputable destinations or on reputable liveaboards, but bad rental gear is out there.

In January, New Zealand coroner, Brant Shortland, after investigating the 2013 Vanuatu death of a Kiwi physician diving the world-class wreck of the Coolidge, put much of the blame for her death on faulty rental gear. Shortland said "The equipment provided by Aquamarine to Dr Osunsade was substandard. The air in her dive cylinder, which had a high water content, would have failed New Zealand standards, and the cylinder contained foreign material, most likely from cleaning. The cylinder valve may have been damaged and [the cylinder] possibly overfilled. There were no records of when it was last tested. Her regulator was in extremely dire condition and should have been replaced. With 10kg of weights, she was over weighted and had dive boots and fins that were too big. She would have been working harder in the water and become more tired."

"Osunsade wasn't experienced enough to know her equipment wasn't safe," Shortland said.

In his defense, the Aquamarine owner said he had bought the gear from an Australian dive company a year earlier, and it had only been in use for two months; furthermore, it had been in storage in Vanuatu's hot and humid conditions for about ten months before police examined it.

Coroner Shortland claimed that Dr. Osunsade's lack of experience should have been clear to Aquamarine, as would have been her ill-fitting equipment. However, it was also reported that Osunsade had been diving nine years, and this was her fourth dive on the Coolidge, which seems like she had plenty of experience to know good gear from bad.

What To Check When You Rent

The takeaway for us divers, whether experienced or inexperienced, is if you are renting gear abroad, you must examine it carefully before letting your life depend upon it. While you can only make a perfunctory exam, here are a few things you can do:

  • Look for frayed hoses; if you have a pressure gauge, make sure the needle is at zero when not pressurized.
  • Put the regulator on a tank, and with the valve turned off, check that when you suck on it you meet solid resistance; that should prove there are no leaks. Make sure the mouthpiece has no holes.
  • Fully inflate the BC, and then verify that the overexpansion valves operate, and the BC holds the full inflation.
  • Shake your tank to hear if it rattles. The debris tube may have fallen off the inside of the valve, or it might be full of rust or aluminum oxide powder.
  • As for a computer -- take your own.

- Ben Davison

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