Friday, October 31, 2008

Left-Behind Scuba Diver Survives 12-Hour Swim

We here at the Scuba Diving Blog have always attested that when scuba divers are put in precarious situations, we manage to accomplish great feats.

The latest example: Thomas Holz.

A tourist battled an all-night ordeal swimming 10 kilometres in shark-infested waters near Vanua Levu for about 12 hours before reaching land in Taveuni.

Thomas Holz, 40, of Berlin in Germany, said he was a lucky man to have survived the strong currents of Somosomo Strait between Taveuni and Vanua Levu.

"I felt alone and couldn't stop thinking of my family back in Germany, my wife and children and how they would be devastated if I didn't make it. That gave me the strength to keep on swimming," Mr Holz said.

Mr Holz and three other tourists holidaying on Taveuni were part of a diving outing organised by Bubble Divers at the Rainbow Reef near Viani Bay in Vanua Levu at 5pm.

Twenty-five minutes into the dive, he surfaced for air after exhausting his oxygen supply.

"The dive master told me to hold on where I was while he dived for the remaining three who had also run out of oxygen," Mr Holz said.

"The boat was about 100 feet away and I could see it on the horizon but couldn't swim for it because the currents were too strong."

Police spokesman Atunaisa Sokomuri said when the dive master resurfaced a few minutes later with the other tourists, Mr Holz was nowhere to be found.

"They searched until 9pm and called it off and started again at 5am yesterday," Mr Sokomuri said.

Mr Holz said he could hear the sound of the boat engine but it was far away and he could hardly see through the dark.

"I could see lights at a place in Vanua Levu but was worried if I swam for it I would wash up in an isolated place with no one around to help so I swam for Taveuni which, although further off, was more populated," he said.

"I felt alone so I decided to swim slowly to balance my energy so that I could last.

"The currents were strong and my main fear was for my family in Germany. Even though I was tired, I hung on to the oxygen cylinder and kept swimming. Then early this morning (yesterday), I felt the seabed and just screamed out for help before I collapsed on the shore."

A woman from a nearby settlement at Wairiki heard Mr Holz's shout for help and rushed to the shore.

She helped him to the safety of a home where he recounted his ordeal.

When The Fiji Times called Mr Holz at about midday, he was revived and on an eco tour.

"I am feeling tired and although the experience was scary, it is something I won't forget," he said.

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John K. said...

I think the dive operator and the dive master may have been negligent for allowing the divers to get so separated, even in a strong-current situation. They should have had a smaller boat in the water to recover the divers. Also, it sounds like the diver didn't have a highly-visible safety sausage, which should have been required. Several things went wrong here.

Neutral Dive Gear said...


You may be right, as the Fijian government has launched an investigation into the incident.