Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Deep Diver Saved from Oxygen Toxicity by Dive Buddy

Never underestimate the power of a quick-thinking scuba diving buddy.

A San Clemente man nearly drowned off San Diego after going into convulsions while underwater Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

The man was 15 feet from the surface and about 1.5 miles from the coast when he started reacting to an air mixture he was using for diving deep into the ocean, said Sans Diego Lifeguard Lt. Andy Lume.

The man's diving partner noticed he was having convulsions and gave him his regulator to supply air, Lume said.

The quick action saved the diver's life, Lume said.

The diver, who has not been identified by authorities, had been diving off La Jolla Shores when the accident occurred at 12:15 p.m. The two divers went underwater to a depth of about 200 feet.

To make the dive, they used a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen called Nitrox, an advanced diving technique to prolong the amount of time a diver is underwater.

The two divers were on their way to the surface and making decompression stops along the way, Lume said. During the stops, the diver seemed to be having a hard time keeping his buoyancy and was kicking hard to stay underneath, Lume said.

"He was inhaling more oxygen than he should," Lume said.

Both divers had experience doing extended dives, but this was the longest dive he'd done.

The San Clemente man is believed to have reacted to oxygen toxicity, where a diver takes in excess amounts of pure oxygen, Lume said.

The man's partner took him up to their boat and lit a flare to alert lifeguards. When lifeguards arrived, the diver had regained consciousness.

The diver was transported to UCSD Medical Center to be treated.

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