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November 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 45, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Parents Sue PADI over the Death of Their 13-Year-Old Son

from the November, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In February, we wrote about the tragic death of Temuulin Tsogt, a 13-year-old Mongolian boy who died during a PADI Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) experience while on vacation in Hawaii. Tsogt, who had no previous ocean or diving experience, drowned on January 5 after an alleged panic attack underwater during a DSD experience in the open ocean with Island Divers Hawaii of Waikiki. DSDs are supposed to be conducted in confined or shallow water, with a one-to-one instructor/student ratio, but Tsogt was one of 20 people in the group that day, and in a group of four with one instructor.

Tsogt's family has now filed a lawsuit, claiming the boy drowned "as a result of being left unattended by his instructor during an introductory openwater scuba dive." The lawsuit accuses multiple defendants of gross negligence, including: Tyler Brown, the PADI-certified instructor who led the DSD excursion that day; Hawaii Water Sports, the tour company that sold Tsogt's parents the DSD experience (while assuring them that no experience was necessary, and he would be supervised at all times); and Sheila Jordan, the boat captain who allegedly failed to call emergency services quickly when crew realized Tsogt was missing.

The lawsuit also accused PADI of gross negligence for allowing inexperienced children to scuba dive in the open ocean with just one instructor to supervise Tsogt and three other young novices, and it claims PADI is also liable for Tsogt's death.

Will this at last be the start of a crackdown on DSD programs? We hope so. As Bret Gilliam, founder of the dive training agency TDI/SDI, wrote in our February article, "The DSD program is dependent on precise supervision and control of the student by an instructor. There is no margin for error. These are diving participants with no prior experience and only bare minimums of skill demonstrations before beginning the dives. In almost all fatalities, the student becomes separated from the instructor, and death occurs due to stressors provoking panic. Sadly, there is an ongoing pattern of the same circumstances leading to student deaths that should prompt extensive review on standards and procedures for such programs."

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