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Out of Air Event
lerpy - 9/12/2013 1:56 PM
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Category: Health & Safety
Comments: 3
Thought I would share the events of a recent dive as I feel it is important to share share when things go wrong so can all learn and be safer divers.

Last week went out for a dive on the boat, and with the group that I dive with weekly. This time my friend ( call him Jeff) came along, and he brought his friend, (call him Mike) who brought his friend (call him Chuck). I have dove with Jeff previously and was confident of his skill and ability, I did not know his friends. Jeff knew Mike, but not Chuck, but Jeff assumed like Mike that Chuck was an experienced diver. We decided that we would dive together, however myself and Jeff would be a buddy team, and Mike and Chuck would be a buddy team as they knew one another. Jeff and I go over the dive and our plan, I am very famliar with the dive and so I take the lead. I can see Mike and Chuck chatting, I assume they are discussing their plan as a buddy team and I let them know that I turn my dives at the 1000Lbs mark. I am diving a steel 149, the other three are all diving AL80. Already some of you maybe starting to see whats going to happen here.

A brief of the wreck, how it sits, depth (80 feet) and what the conditions can be expected on bottom are given.

We gear up jump in, hit the down line and start our decent. As typical in lake Ontario vis is not great so with me in lead and my buddy behind I make sure we are all together as we decend. Half way down I turn back to see that we are still together. I see my buddy is well above me and I am losing sight and him, and I have lost the other two. I stop and hold until my buddy catches up, he indicates the other two have returned to the surface. I confirm everything is ok, and we continue now as a twosome. We hit the wreck and start our dive. About 12 minutes into the dive, the other two suddenly appear. At about this point I do an air check and I get an ok from everybody, with my buddy giving me a specific that he is at about 2000lbs as am I. We continue to tour the wreck. About five minutes later I do an air check with the others again, my buddy indicates he is at about 1800 ( I do not remember the exact numbers so do not hold me to consumption rates) as am I, I see Mike indicate he is about 1400 and Chuck shows me four fingers. I am briefly confused and think, he must mean 1400, surely he and his buddy are keeping track of their air together, especialy since they rejoined us part way through the dive. My training and my gut kicks in so I ask again, four fingers again, still confused I grab Chucks gauge, 300LBS indicating. SHIT!!! is what when through my head, 80 feet down, half way a long the wreck so 60-70 feet to return to the line up, AL80, with 300LBS left, not good.

I signal with some urgency that we are turning around. Chuck is clearly stressed, Mike realizing what is going on is also stressed and takes off towards the line leaving Chuck with me. We get to the line and there is are a few divers preparing to accend, I indicate we need to go ahead and I get Chuck and myself on the line. I grab his guage again, 100LBS. I make the decision at this point to put him on my tank now instead of waiting until he actualy runs dry, simply would rather do it with a semi calm diver. I indicate to Chuck on three I am going to give him my reg, 1,2,3 I take the reg out hand it over to him he is reluctant to take it, then takes it letting go of the line and he starts to float away, the reg pulling out of his mouth, he grabs his puts it back in his mouth and I grab him to stop him from getitng away from me and get him back on my tank. We stop and I try to calm him down, I show him my guage indicating still 1600LBS almost of air, he calms down and gives the ok know I have lots of air to share. We make the accent with the safety stop at 15 feet.

Upon return to the boat I checked my computer and made sure the accent was not to fast. I checked with Chuck, he was ok, not much else was said. I overheard Chuck talking to Mike about what had happened, and what I heard was Chuck indicating he was waiting for me to get to 1000LBS and turn the dive, that is what he was expecting, for me to decide when the dive was over for him. I also heard comment of, he seemed concerned that I reacted rather calmly to him being at 400LBS.

My thoughs, you manage your own air, and no point in me freaking out, a level head keeps people safe.

I spoke to Jeff, my friend, the next day about it and here is what he passed on to me. Chuck was not an overly experienced diver, but let on to him (Jeff) and Mike that he was. They returned to the surface because Chuck had forgotten his weight belt. Chuck was convinced that turning the dive was my responsibility based on air, Chuck did not seem to recognize that he needs to turn his dive when his air is low not wait for someone else to turn it. My friend kind of indicated it was a bit of a cluster, and he and I both said we would be cautious of diving with Chuck again, but at least we know now.

In the end, Chuck is is fine and amongst the living. The boat captain and the other divers who saw this unfolding undering water indicated I did a good job of managing the situation and returning Chuck to the surface in good order, so that of course all that really matter.

I am still trying to figure out at what point was he going to indicate he was low and needed to surface, why was he not communicating with buddy, as an experienced diver, Mike was not aware of what was going on, and in some ways why didn’t he know, was he not doing air check with his buddy either? Gear was checked, no leaks, and Chuck indicated the pressure did not drop rapidly in his mind.

Again, at the end of the day, everyone returned home safely and that is whats most important.

Just thought I would share this incident, any thoughts, advice, input on how this was handled it appreciated, I always look to learn.


Brian_V - 9/13/2013 1:24 PM
Wow! Amazing story! You handled it perfectly, great job! Hopefully this was a wake up call to ’Chuck’ to start taking responsibility for his own safety and his own life when diving! ...I would NEVER delegate that to ANYBODY else! No diver should!
Greg - 9/12/2013 4:14 PM
And Mike needs a refresher course in proper buddy diving. Chuck should assume responsibility for himself, being a certified diver, but his buddy should lend a hand...not swim away when things start to get stressful.
Greg - 9/12/2013 4:11 PM
Wow, great article! And thankfully you were level headed and experienced enough to handle the situation properly. That could have gotten out of hand really quickly. Great job!

I would expect that Chuck didn’t say anything because... A. He wasn’t watching his gauges enough himself. B. He was too proud to admit he sucked down his air so quickly. C. He thought he had gills and didn’t need air anymore.

When I was a new diver, I can remember NOT wanting to speak up when something was wrong, purely out of pride. Looking back, I realize how stupid that was. Any diver, regardless of experience, should speak up if there is a problem. Adopt the cave diver philosophy...any diver can call off any dive for any reason.