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Complete Loss of Buoyancy Control On Descent to a Wreck

Discussion in 'Near Misses & Lessons Learned' started by Blackfrogfeet, Jan 19, 2021.

  1. Blackfrogfeet

    Blackfrogfeet Registered

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Canada
    This was a boat dive onto a cold water wreck (130ish metres long) sitting in 36-40m of water, with parts of the super structure beginning around 18m, and the first decks at 24-30m. Equipment being used was double steel 100's (12l) on my back with an AL80 (11l) bottom stage, all with EAN32. There were 4 of us on the boat, and we split into 2 sub-teams based my buddy and I being on the same doubles + bottom stage config, and the other 2 being on doubles only; although we decided we would dive in one big 4 person group on/in the wreck. Personally, I don't like diving in big 4-5 person groups like this as I find each person has less individual accountability to other people in the team and it leads to communication problems, which I think played a role here, although it was not the primary issue, and I wont be mentioning it in the rest of the story.

    To start it off, it was relatively choppy and diver # 3 was becoming sea sick. He eventually vomited two times but remained in good spirits and wanted to get in the water. I looked at my team mate (diver #2) and decided we needed to enter the water quickly in order to salvage our chances of diving with #3 in case he became too sick on the surface. Diver #3 and #4 jumped in and moved to the down line through the chop. Diver #2, like me was going to use a bottom stage for this dive. We both clipped our bottles on, performed a quick S-drill, and jumped in the water breathing from our long hoses/ back gas. We decided that we would switch to our stages on the way down at 6m and take a quick pause there with #3 and #4 to make sure he was feeling OK from his sea sickness before descending fully. When we were all at the down line on the surface, we descended together. The team communication fell apart between 1/2 and 3/4 fairly quickly, and 3/4 headed straight for the wreck. My buddy (#2) was descending just a bit faster than me and was below me. I was adding shots of gas from my power inflator, when suddenly, it stopped providing gas. I immediately went to use my dry suit inflation to make myself neutral so I could solve the problem with the power inflator, but received no gas from the drysuit inflation either. At that point, I had sank a few metres but had already become so negative that I had no choice but to grab the down-line and hold on for dear life. I went to signal my buddy with my primary light, who by now was only 2 metres below me but I could not do that either. Because I was planning on doing a bottle switch at the start of the dive, I entered the water with my primary light stowed. Not only was it stowed, but I had left it off. Now diver #2 was looking around for me only a few metres below, waiting for me to arrive so we could continue our dive, but I was unable to signal him. After a few seconds, he looks up, comes to me and hooks up both my inflation hoses. Finally.... we can start this dive. I begin to unstow my bottom stage regulator, which had become depressurized most likely from the surface chop sloshing in the 2nd stage. I crack the cylinder open before I pull the 2nd stage hose out from the bottle rigging, so I dont accidentally unthread a depressurized reg from the valve, and POOF! The HP hose on the 1st stage blows on me. Cherry on top of the cake. I signal that my stage is out of commission for the dive, put it away, and I continue on my back gas for an uneventful dive.

    Having a complete loss of all buoyancy control like that in open water could have been catastrophic had there been no down line, or had there been current taking me away from the down line. On the surface after the dive I inspected my gear. I had just put 2 new LP inflation hoses on my regs before that dive. After I installed them I was quite pleased with how smooth the action was of moving the sleeve up and down for connecting/ disconnecting. I had done a predive check on the boat immediately before entering the water, and I am quite sure that I had correctly hooked up both my inflation hoses. While playing around with me gear back on the surface, I was able to disconnect my LP inflation hoses very easily, by just brushing the cuff of my dry glove against it. I am not blaming the equipment in any way, but it is something I will be more cognizant of in the future. I also adjusted the position of the bungee holding my power inflator to my harness shoulder strap, as I noticed that it had been rubbing against it probably for some time, and it was able to bump off the new LP hose. That is a big lesson learned in terms of being aware of my equipment states. The other big thing I did which really could have caused bigger problems, was jumping in the water with my light turned off. I had no means of signalling for help. As you can imagine, I was a little frazzled in the first 5 minutes of this dive, but everything worked out in the end, and I was happy to surface with a few new lessons learned.
    Ichebasje, rx7diver, BlueTrin and 9 others like this.
  2. UCFKnightDiver

    UCFKnightDiver ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Florida
    Before you jumped in the water did you test your gear? I.e. breath the regs, put a burst of air in your bc and drysuit, etc? Definitely sounds scary. Always the possibility to orally inflate if you absolutely have to once on the bottom
    Fishyhead likes this.
  3. OTF

    OTF Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: scubaboard
    Great writeup. Scary scenario, especially with multiple unrelated failures (the blown hose after all that). It's a good reminder that murphy really is out to get us sometimes. And the little "insignificant" things like your stowed light add up fast in an unexpected emergency. Sounds like you handled it well.

    A solid tech check would have caught the problem. Even if not a full proper tech check, at least a quick predive self-test of all regs/inflators must happen before splashing every single time.

    If you did lose the line and your buddy, orally inflating the wing could have been an option. I like to casually use the oral wing inflator on dives sometimes just to stay practiced with it (and recycle a breath!). Another good skill to practice is holding onto anchor lines with a wrap around one leg while using hands to do things.

    I would hate to think what drysuit squeeze would do if this plummet went a few more meters out of control. I guess it would quickly get to the point that you might not even be able to reach the oral inflator. Anyone here ever experience that?
    Fishyhead and kafkaland like this.
  4. Blackfrogfeet

    Blackfrogfeet Registered

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Canada
    I always test all my gear before each splash. I do a full GUE Edge, and I never jump off a boat without inflating my wing before, because anyone who dives doubles steel tanks with stage bottles knows how negative you get with an empty wing. I really do believe it was the 1 in a million chance where I managed to pop both the inflation quick connects off while I was in the water and sorting myself out. This boat in particular has a line running from bow to stern to pull your self up from the back where you jump to the front where the down line is. Pulling a line across my chest would have easily caught those quick connects.
  5. Bierstadt

    Bierstadt Contributor

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Erie, PA
    That is an impressively unlikely pair of failures. And yet it happened. I wouldn't be comfortable diving two hair-trigger quick-connects like that. Assuming I knew they were that sensitive, of course. I take it you have replaced at least one of them with something less twitchy?

    I wonder how long it would take to orally inflate to neutral with the weight of doubles pushing you down? I've dove without using the power inflator to keep in practice, but never while free falling with doubles. There is always the lift bag option too, assuming you react quickly enough.

    Thanks for sharing.
    OTF likes this.
  6. BlueTrin

    BlueTrin ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: London
    I had a similar issue where I had a the hose inflator disconnecting during a dive.

    I think it was similar to you with the bungee being in the end of the QD hose and rubbing on it. I make sure to always pull a bit on the inflator to move it away from the bungee during my pre-check.
  7. Blackfrogfeet

    Blackfrogfeet Registered

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Canada
    Sounds like the exact same set up on my harness. The bungee was able to work its way in. After that dive I moved the positioning of the bungee an inch or two back so that wouldn't happen.
    BlueTrin likes this.
  8. Marie13

    Marie13 Great Lakes Mermaid ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Great Lakes

    Did the inflator hoses happen to be the ones with the extended collar to make the hose easier to use? I had one of those for my wing inflator a couple of years ago. This type was OK to use on my drysuit, but it would pop off my wing inflator very easily. I switched it out for one without the extended collar and the problem went away.
    OTF and fisheater like this.

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