Bristol inquest of 2018 Tulum student fatality

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Technical Instructor
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Scuba Instructor
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Boulder, CO
# of dives
1000 - 2499
In what training material does PADI state that one diver in a buddy team has a higher level of responsibility than the other?
I . too, have never heard of this before.


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The 214
# of dives
100 - 199
PADI has no power over anything other than the instructor's credentials. In all other cases I know of in which an instructor was determined to be negligent in the case of a fatality, PADI expelled the instructor, usually pretty quickly. That's the most they can do.

So what else can happen? As shocking as this may seem, there may have been no law broken here. I don't know what such a law would be. The only recourse really would be a lawsuit, and it is my understanding that such lawsuits are rare in Mexico.

About a week after this incident, there was a fatality on the mainland, near Tulum, and it makes a telling comparison. I know the details pretty well because I wrote the official report of it for the NSS, which documents caving and cave diving incidents in North America.

A group of tourists contracted with an instructor to provide a Discover Scuba experience for 10 of them. He chose to do it in the Cenote Manati, a very large cenote just off the ocean north of Tulum. It is a very dangerous dive site because the exit tunnel from the cenote runs under the road and into the ocean, creating an effect similar to the outlet of a funnel. When they arrived, there was a whirlpool visible on the surface at the exit tunnel. The visibility was very poor. The instructor who had been contracted apparently did not enter the water but instead stayed on the shore while two other instructors he had brought along took care of the 10-person Discover Scuba class. (I hope you have all seen enough red flags at this point to have your eyes wide with wonder.)

Not long after the Discover Scuba started, students started popping to the surface in fear. This was not what they were expecting. Two of the students were too near the exit tunnel, and they were being pulled into it. One of the instructors managed to pull one of them out, but the other was sucked in. They hoped he would pop out into the ocean, but that didn't happen. They contacted nearby cave divers for help, but they were not able to recover the body, wedged in some rocks, until the next day.

As all this was happening, the two instructors who had been in the water with the students realized things were not looking good for them, and they fled. They were never identified, and some believe they were not even instructors. The instructor who had hired them for the class apparently refused to identify them. He himself was expelled as an instructor immediately, but when I wrote that report, he was still advertising his services for instruction with a different agency. At the time I wrote the report, no legal action had been taken against anyone.

By the way, the main reason I believe the instructors in the water were not actually instructors is that the one named instructor is the only PADI member expelled in that area that week. It is possible that the instructors were actually named, but the agency could take no action because they were not actually instructors. It is also possible that no actual law was broken, so that is why no legal action was taken against them.

I dove Dos Ojos and Tajma Ha the day after this. The halocline was so severe I could barely see the DM's light at times, and he did eventually call the dive. It was at this point I learned in Mexico, the definition of Cavern is stretched into Cave.

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