Fatality off Bald Head Island - NC

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DandyDon

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From Man, 59, dies after offshore dive accident | StarNewsOnline.com
What began as a fun day of collecting underwater fossils several miles off Bald Head Island plunged unexpectedly into tragedy Thursday after one of the group's divers emerged from the water unconscious and never woke up.

In what was described as standard procedure, the U.S. Coast Guard has launched an investigation into the death of Donald Zantop, a 59-year-old veterinarian from Maryland who was killed by what officials portrayed as an unfortunate diving accident.

The incident, which was announced by the Coast Guard late Thursday, occurred about 3 p.m. as a crewmember aboard a 50-foot, chartered dive vessel named the Hawksbill called the Coast Guard to report an emergency.

Zantop, the crewmember reported, had slipped out of consciousness after completing a 70-minute dive to depths of 100 feet about 32 miles southeast of Bald Head Island.

It was the second fatal diving accident on the Hawksbill in less than two years.

Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach launched a 41-foot utility boat, and a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter lifted off from Charleston, S.C., to respond to the call. Petty Officer David Marin, a Coast Guard spokesman, said Zantop was first brought aboard the utility boat, but the helicopter later airlifted him to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Doug Bevell, a medical examiner investigator in New Hanover County, said an autopsy conducted on Zantop in Jacksonville showed that he died from an air embolus. Bevell said he had spoken with Zantop's wife, and she described her husband as an experienced diver.

According to Medical News Today, an online news service, an air embolism happens when an air bubble cuts off blood supply to a particular part of the body because it has become trapped in a blood vessel. This can happen during a scuba dive because when a diver ascends too quickly, the nitrogen in their blood does not have to time to clear and instead separates out of the blood, forming bubbles, according to the medical news service.

"We of course send our thoughts and prayers out to the family," said Rick Frazier, co-owner of the Cape Fear Dive Center, the Carolina Beach-based business that charters the Hawksbill for recreational dives. "It's an unfortunate thing. That's about all you can say in these circumstances."

Frazier, who was not on board when the incident happened, said the vessel ferried about 15 divers out to Megalodon ledge Thursday morning, a popular spot for finding fossilized shark's teeth.

"Diving as a whole is not a dangerous sport," Frazier said. But, he added, "what you have to realize is that with any sport, there are some risks associated with it."

There is a divemaster present on each voyage, Frazier said, and his job is to ensure that everything runs smoothly on deck. Divers are not supervised underwater.

While acknowledging that it was a deep dive, Frazier said that the 100-foot depth in which Zantop descended is generally safe.

A similar accident occurred in May of last year, when 50-year-old Corrine Pierce suffered fatal injuries to her lungs while scuba diving with the Hawksbill at the site of a shipwreck off Carolina Beach. A Coast Guard probe into the incident concluded that Pierce died because she rapidly ascended from a depth of 84 feet after mistakenly adding too much air to her dry suit, which made her buoyant and rise toward the surface too quickly.
 

openmindOW

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I've done "fossil dives" from the Hawksbill.

The "shark teeth" they were seeking were Megalodon Teeth. The "Meg Ledge" is far from shore. The Ledge is deep: approximately 100 feet.

Regarding the tragic incident with Dr. Zantop, I have absolutely no idea what happened. I am not speculating in any way. Having said that, I will say that Meg Tooth dives at the Meg Ledge are not beginner dives.

They're deep. And the ledge is a long way from shore in the event that something goes wrong.
 
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AfterDark

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.....70-minute dive to depths of 100 feet ......? Wonder if that was planned?
 

ktomlinson

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Just my guess, but you can set google alerts for various keywords.
 

aHeavyD

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Ok, let’s get this straight before everybody’s rumors get too carried away over my friends’ death.

First it’s pretty sad to see a newspaper said he was killed. Second he didn’t die after the dive as they suggest. Lastly the both of us are technically trained thru tri-mix and both have over 800 dives each with many of them well over 100 feet deep.

It was in fact a planned dive with a 70 minute run time on the bottom with O2 for decompression. We have done many dives together and felt great as a team. We always talk pre-dives, plans, bailouts and post dives. It was a normal dive we have done before with the permission of Cape Fear divers for the past 5 dives with them. We have always been straight forward with the owners, their Captain and crew. They are always the greatest people to deal with.

Don and I were to meet at the line on our planned 70 minute dive. Then ascend together as we have for many dives together. We have over 180 dives with each other. In the later stages of the dive after the single tanks divers have gone up I could see my buddy about 30 to 40 feet away. We are not always this close when shark tooth diving but he was this time. We were about 50 feet from the anchor line. I got up off the bottom to make the move to the line and wind my reel in. I could see Don doing it at the same time as I saw him all the way to the anchor as he hit the line just before me. It was just about 100 feet deep at the sand and we were up just past the chain where the rope starts. I would guess at 90 feet. We were side by side on the line; he was opposite me in a facing manner just over a little. More like shoulder to shoulder. I wasn’t look at him directly or at his face as we were both busy stowing our reels and putting goody bags away. Everything was normal. After I just click my last thing off I heard him grunt two times and he shook the line at the same time. At this time he had my complete attention and I was directly in front of him. He’s not looking me in the eyes and had a distant stare, he was shaking slightly. He was still breathing but holding the lines with two hands which wasn’t normal to see him holding the line like that. He then reached up and started to purge his octo. At this time I’m grabbing his pressure gauge and he had plenty of air. He’s still holding his octo but not looking anywhere but straight. In this mass of bubbles around him I then held him and started moving up the line with him. Remember we are at about 90 feet. As he held the octo fully depressed I could not see his face well, I thought he could still be breathing. As I moved up the line in a controlled accent for both of us, venting both of us as we went. I knew I had to get him to the surface and would blow thru my mandatory stops as we went. During the accent I switch off my long hose to have it ready as I could see his tanks were going to go empty before the surface from the full purge he was still doing. There was a mass of bubbles around us from this full purge and it was still hard to see his face and eyes. His tanks went empty at about 25 feet and at this time I knew he was unconscious as I had to remove his hand and reg and try to force my reg in his mouth and also continue the full purge that he started. After another 10 or 15 second of full purge of my own tanks I could see no response and stop giving him my own air. At this time I was at the Carolina rig and looked to see if anybody was around. To my surprise my other best friend and diver Steve Wagner was just finishing up his deco. He happened to be looking at us due to a giant wall off air bubbles rising to the surface from the regulator purges. He really didn’t see us until I stopped purging my own tanks. I waved for to him to come to me. I keep moving Don to the surface and Steve swam to me. When Steve arrived I knew I was in good hands as he happens to one of my best dive buddies and just happened to be once captain of the Police dive team where we live. At this time I’m still moving up with Don and let Steve take him from me. I was now at about 10 feet from the surface and looked Steve straight in the face and I pointed down. I let go of my good friend and dive buddy Don and swam down. I then had a very long wait starting at 30 feet by myself thinking what just happened. It was the longest deco (in my mind) I ever did just waiting and not knowing what’s happening above me with my friend Don. With a game going on in my mind I’ve just went thru three mandatory stops and how to readjust for it.

I now had time to look at my dive computer and my accent rate ranged from 18 to 27 feet a minute. I would guess the slower is stopping to vent the both of us and holding on to both the line and him. I did explain to the coast guard officer at my interview he could have lung expansion due to him being in a slight head down position when raising from the bottom to the surface in a full regulator purge with it in his mouth.

I have never seen anybody ever have a heart attack or seen an air embolus. I know for a fact I raised him from depth in a safe accent rate and my computer confirms it. Don Zantop was a veterinary doctor. I feel him hitting the purge was a last ditch problem to save himself. I felt it was a heart attack as I witnessed the event. Could an embolus happen purging air into the body as I raised him I don’t know? I’m not a doctor. My heart is now out to his family as I just lost a very good buddy and friend.

I’m not going to get into a discussion of our tanks sizes. Were they over filled or not, what was the gas type, what was the bottom pressures at the line. I gave all this info to the coast guard. I can tell you what happened was not about the equipment, the air type, the dive shop or crew. It was a normal dive for us, nothing was out of the ordinary, something happened to him at depth and I was by his side when it did.

I also want to say thanks to Cape Fear Divers. The Captain and crew were a first class act in handling this emergency. This shop, the owners and captains treat us like family when we come to dove with them. Please don’t let his death have any effect on them. Cape Fear Dive shop did everything right.

This is the actual account as it happened. I’m sharing this with you as he was one of my best friends. I feel it should be told correctly and not by some news paper speculating or people second guessing my friend or the dive shop. If my english is not written well it could be I’m still in shock myself.

On a positive note. Don's wife told me, he died doing what he loved and he was with his friends when he passed. There were ten of us there for our annual tooth dive trip.
 
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OP
DandyDon

DandyDon

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Thank you, aHeavyD. That was an especially unfortunate incident. Your part certainly sounds admirable, altho stressful. Do let us know if we can help you with the stress and mourning.
Just my guess, but you can set google alerts for various keywords.
Yep, then I post them here in hopes that it'll encourage first hand reports - so we can learn from them, preferably based on facts if possible, and maybe help those close open up about it - generally deemed best for them.
 

Warhammer

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Tragic. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
 

aHeavyD

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Here's Don Scubaboard profile info.

View Profile: donzi - ScubaBoard

As you can see he is quite experienced, we did try to dive every week not matter where. To us it was about getting wet, the fun of the sport and the people we meet along that way with the same interest. He dove year around and if the quarries were frozen. We would cut a hole in the ice and still go. We've been in the Chesapeake Bay with ice flowing down the bay diving for old bottles. He loved to dive.
 
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