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Unread 07/20/2004, 07:23 AM   #3
Premium Member
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Tampa, FL
Posts: 1,421
In my recent trip down to Dominica, there were two situations that happened that could have ended badly.

The first was purely an accident. It could have been avoided, but not by my control. I was swimming along peacefully stopping here and there to take some photos when all of a sudden, BAM!, I got kicked in the side of my head, knocked my regulator out of my mouth and my mask off of my head. Not a good thing in 90' of water! Thankfully I'm very comfortable with and without my gear and I was able to recover.

The other incident had the capacity to be much more serious. The dive profile was to make a big circle out from the boat and around the reef starting at about 70' down.. I had my camera gear and my wife was diving with her video gear. About 25 minutes into the dive, in about 35' of water, I noticed her having a lot of trouble staying down. I swam over to her and held on to a rock and her to let her calm down and deflate her BCD. At this point, we're not sure what happened, but I think she was starting to panic and pressed her inflator instead of the deflator because her BCD inflated fully. Not good. After that, things began to spiral downhill. She paniced even more started jerking around. Some of the wires from her lights got tangled and pulled out the inflator hose to her BCD.

At this point she was about ready to bolt to the surface (my arms hurt for several days from holding her down). I made her drop her video gear, plugged her hose back in and calmed her down a bit. We still couldn't get her BCD deflated, mainly because she was still freaked out and I couldn't hold her, hold the rock and deflate her gear all at the same time. After some consideration and a review of my guages and the situation at hand I decided that we needed to ascend, even though it would be fast and would be an emergency ascent (at this point we were in less than 30' of water).

There are a couple of lessons that I learned from this (and hopefully she did too, we did "debrief" afterwards with the divemaster).

1. She needs to be a bit more comfortable with her gear. She completely forgot about the lower back deflator which would have corrected the situation before it got out of hand.

2. Her video gear is not more important than her safety. She was too focused on it once things started getting bad. Were this to happen again, I'd either clip her gear off onto my harness, or just leave it on the bottom and retrieve it after safely surfacing her.

3. It didn't occur to me until we were at the surface to use my knife to puncture her BCD. In retrospect, I think what I did was still the best option, but were this to happen in deeper water or in a more dangerous profile, I would not hesitate.

4. We had been diving 32% EAN on all of our dives. However, we had basically been diving air profiles since we were the only Nitrox divers on the trip and we basically stuck with the group. I can't tell for sure, but I'm pretty convinced that the additional safety factors involved in the higher mix was influential in not having any injuries.

5. It would have been better to leave her inflator hose disconnected after it was pulled out. There was already some problem with the BCD being too inflated. At the time, we did not know if it was user error or a problem with the equipment. If it was the equipment, reconnecting it was the wrong thing to do. However, I would not have been able to explain this to her while she was panicing underwater, so even if it was technically the better thing to do, reconnecting it was important in stabilizing the situation.

I can't stress how important the after dive discussions, both with ourselves and several other divemasters and instructors was.


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