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October 2022    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 37, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Short Cut Mentality in Divers

a road to disaster

from the October, 2022 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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In 2020, I listened to a broadcast of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) meeting in which the board members and committee heads discussed their investigation into the tragic fire aboard the dive boat Conception when 34 divers lost their lives. During the four-plus-hour discussion, they identified several issues contributing to the catastrophic deaths. It was tough to listen to some of the details.

During the discussion, the notion of "normalization of deviance" struck a chord with me, and I saw that it had direct application to diving safety. Normalization of deviance means that people become so accustomed to their conscious deviation from a standard procedure that they no longer consider their changes deviant. To them, their changes have become normal operating procedures.

During my nearly 50 years as a diving professional and 23 years working at Divers Alert Network (DAN), I have read and reviewed hundred of worldwide diving accident reports. The details of these "accidents" should cause one to reflect on his or her own diving experiences and realize that this could happen to you, just as it did to those highly trained, experienced, and, apparently, qualified divers.

Understanding what turned an enjoyable recreational dive into a tragedy is critical if we're to learn how to avoid the same fate. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself."

An Unusual Cause of Diving Accidents

In 2008, Dr. Petar Denoble at DAN reviewed nearly 1,000 diver fatalities. He identified triggering events that initiated a cascade of circumstances that transformed an otherwise enjoyable dive into a fatality.

Those triggering events were:...

Out of Breathing Gas ...... 41%
Entrapment...................... 21%
Equipment Problems ...... 15%
Rough Water..................... 10%
Trauma................................ 6%
Buoyancy............................. 4%
Inappropriate Gas............... 3%

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