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April 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 32, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Faulty Gear or Bad Judgment?

tragedies that might have been handled differently

from the April, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

When fit and experienced Canadian diver Allen McGuire, 53, apparently drowned during a dive while on a February vacation in the Dominican Republic, it was left to another Canadian tourist to tell his partner, Luanna Cappuccino, that he was found unresponsive in the water and other divers had tried to resuscitate him.

Unable to get a full autopsy report, she was informed by a doctor that he had "died from asphyxiation." She has been struggling to get a satisfactory explanation of what happened from officials, and the dive company, Scubaquatic, didn't even speak to her, leaving her with questions about whether the company had proper equipment and adequately trained instructors.

"It wasn't a heart attack," she says. "There's no sign of stress, so it's not like something like that has happened."

Cappuccino said the Dominican Republic national police told her they would not open an investigation until they received an Attorney General's report, which would follow the coroner's report in about three months. She says if a diver had died in similar circumstances in Canada, the company's equipment would be checked right away. That hasn't happened, and Scubaquatic continues to operate.

The Canadian federal department warns that beach and sporting equipment, especially scuba diving equipment, in the Dominican Republic may not meet Canadian safety standards.

The bereaved family of any diver who dies always wants someone to blame. It's only natural. And they'll always want tougher regulations to prevent further fatalities.

Timothy Chu, a Hong Kong-born British police officer, 27, set up a dive trip with Ogden Point Dive Center in British Columbia. He had a mere 14 dives logged when he went for that last open water dive on July 5, 2015. He lost his life at Race Rocks near Victoria, in an area notorious for its strong currents.

The family held an emotional press conference in January this year. His father, Bill Chu, said the dive shop should not have taken a person with such limited experience into the area due to the high risk, especially since two other diving accidents had recently happened in the same area. Search and Rescue crew got two other divers, who allegedly were with the Ogden Point Dive Center, to safety.

Although Timothy Chu had sensibly hired a local divemaster as a buddy, there remains a question mark over the divemaster's qualifications. During the court hearing, the Coroner deduced Chu encountered conditions that overwhelmed his experience and training. Because of tides, the site is normally only dived at slack water, but local divers know the currents are unpredictable. The Coroner also noted that once he encountered difficulty, he consumed more air from his tank, resulting in the divemaster attempting to supply Chu with air from his own regulator. Fighting a heavy current and getting tangled in the kelp, Chu was pulled down, suggesting he wore too much weight, a common practice with inexperienced divers. His body was found more than a month later.

(Sources: CBC, The Ottawa Citizen and the Vancouver Sun)

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