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February 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 31, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Why Divers Die

factors to consider before you go underwater

from the February, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Every year, hundreds of divers die around the world. Their deaths are usually caused by bad decisions they make, like diving beyond one’s level of competence, diving with known medical conditions or diving in bad sea conditions. Most dive-related deaths are avoidable, and many of the incidents might have had better outcomes through better training, better knowledge of the associated risks, appropriate medical screening, better gear maintenance -- and just plain common sense.

Since our founding in 1975, we have published significant dive fatality cases so that our readers might better prepare themselves for safe diving. Divers Alert Network’s Asia-Pacific division publishes the most detailed cases of diving and snorkeling fatalities; its latest report covers dive deaths in Australian waters in 2010. We hope that by explaining these cases, divers will understand better how they could contribute to their own demise, and exercise proper judgment throughout their diving career.

Tropical Divers to Cold-Water Divers

A preponderance of our readers make all their dives from resorts and liveaboards in tropical waters, and smart ones know that tropical training and experience can’t be transferred to cold water beach diving. This 31-year-old woman had been certified in the warm waters of Thailand and was making her first dive in nine months in much colder water in Australia. That meant a 5mm semi-drysuit, with which she wore 20 pounds of weight, far more than she was used to. She and her buddy made a shore dive, with visibility much lower than in tropical waters, and after 20 minutes in shallow water, her buddy couldn’t see her. Rather than continue searching, he went to the local dive shop for help. Divers soon found her lying on the bottom, face up, at 13 feet, regulator out of her mouth. She was dragged into the boat, unconscious, and CPR couldn’t bring her back. While the buddy system breakdown was tragic, heavy weights, new gear and cold water were serious contributors....


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