Friday, August 31, 2012

Near-Fatal Shipwreck Scuba Diving Accident Caught on Video


(Feed readers click through for video)

Here's the story in the diver's own words...

“I am happy to share my experience in case it can knock some sense into someone like me that knows better but ignores the warning signs.

Here is a video captured from my mask camera that shows the worst of my incident in which I got lost in the shipwreck. The video stops when I hit my head on the roof of the room I was trapped in before I found my way out. It took me a while to watch the whole thing because in two places you can hear me scream in my regulator.

At first I was embarrassed to talk about it. I knew better, I knew my limits, I ignored it all against my better judgment. Now I feel comfortable sharing what happened in case it might stop someone from having the same near death experience.

Whenever I have read scuba dive column detailing an accident in a post mortem it is easy to see the glaring warnings that go by like a flashing road sign. In my case I ignored them and put myself in a situation that was above my skill level and equipment for a penetration dive.

During a great dive in wonderful conditions on the SHIPWRECK we started talking about our second dive on the ship. A group of us talked about doing a slight swim through penetration dive through some large openings. My buddy and I opted in and I started gearing up for the upcoming dive. I turned out to the be the last one in the water so once I cleared "OK" upon entering the water I raced to catch up to my buddy who was #4 on a group of 5 about to penetrate the wreck. Being the trailing #5 diver I formed up and followed my buddy along one of the ship walkway at 100 feet. When I reached the door I saw daylight on the other side of the ship and thought this was a bit more than a swim through but entered anyway without lights.

I later learned after the dive that my buddy had formed up on an entirely different group, a group of three that had no idea who we were and that we were following them.

When I entered I quickly knew that something was wrong when I saw the group descend down a stair case, seeing bright sunlight ahead and silted enter way behind me I pressed forward in total darkness thinking I would find a clear path out.

I found myself in a room with only portholes out, no path to swim out. I was stuck in a silted dark room with a silted exit route and as panic began to set in I started burning through my precise air at an accelerated rate at 100 feet.

This is the point in which my fate was in the balance. Panic was starting to set in and I began to see my life flash before my eyes. Thoughts of my family, thoughts of how I was about to learn how painful drowning is, thoughts of how my death would tarnish ********references deleted to protect the identity of the diver******, all while flashes from a small blue LED light from my camera equipped mask reminding me that the camera was rolling would be part of the accident investigation.

The best way I can describe the feeling is that it is like when you have a near miss car accident, only this feeling lasted over five minutes.

Then something clicked that saved my life - in the waterfall of negative thoughts I yelled back. "Shut the fuck up!" "You know what to do, you have trained for this, you need to solve this problem right now or you are going to die." I told myself to take inventory of the situation, check your air, relax, let the silt settle, preserve your night vision by not looking at the bright light coming in from the port holes. I charged up the glow in the dark element of my gauges and then started to settle down. Somewhere in this time line my camera stopped, the stop button must have been pushed when I hit my head.

As a laid back and started to settle a square glint of a doorway appeared. I slowly peered out the door and saw a glint of a hallway. Knowing the hallways were safe from overhanging wires and ducts I headed into the darkness praying not to find any resistance. As I traveled down the hallway I found my environment getting brighter. I made it to the end of the hallway and found an entry that felt as big as the Grand Canyon. I swam for it and was free. Free, but alone - where was my buddy?

I was very low on air but my fear shifted to my buddy, I was worried that he had a similar fate and maybe he was still trying to get out of his.

I went to an ascent line at 60 feet and looked for bubbles and looked for the group that we mistakenly followed into the wreck. I planned to suck the tank dry and wait for him. My ascent from 100 to 60 was pretty fast and my computer was indicating that I needed to burn off some more gas. Once the deco flag went away from my computer I ascended to 15 feet and planned to burn off whatever I had left while I watched for my buddy. When I dropped below 500 psi I surfaced and found I was the first diver back.

Not knowing if an emergency was occurring I let the Captain know that I was #5 of a group of 5 that broke off a penetration dive and I wanted to look for the group. I grabbed my snorkel and fins and watched for the group to emerge from the wreck. After 5 minutes I saw the 4 person group emerge from the bubbles and surface.

When I met my buddy on the boat he was surprised to see me but unaware that I had left the group. When I spoke with the lead three of the group they had no idea who I was and that my buddy and I were following them.

For days I would shudder whenever the thoughts of what could of happened settled in my head. The mistakes and ignored cues are almost too many to count but I did learn a huge lesson from this dive. One that I am very fortunate to have survived.

I wish to remain anonymous but you are welcome to share this story if it helps keep someone from making the same mistakes I made.”

You can read the analysis here.

Be safe out there, friends.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't feel sorry for this diver in the slightest. Clearly had no idea what they were doing and had no business penetrating that wreck at all.

No lights
No reserve
No penetration plan
No line
No common sense