Near miss diving doubles for 2nd time

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Scuba Instructor
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# of dives
200 - 499

Too much, too fast, all at once.

I cannot believe a DM/instructor did this to themselves.

If you are gonna Tec dive, you should get your own gear and be comfortable in it before you start the course.

Where are my aspirins?


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West Virginia; Seattle and SF 20 yrs.
# of dives
I'm a Fish!
OP wrote:
"I signaled to another student that I was having issues, and gave the sign that I wanted to ascend. I then went over the the instructor and did the same. He signaled to wait, as a student was in the middle of an isolation drill."

The dive should have ended at the thumb up. Period.

The instructor failed in his duty.

Next time you give the thumb up to a buddy, don't request permission from an instructor.


Scuba Instructor
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Chicago Area
# of dives
There are all kinds of red flags here.

1. A 5/7 wetsuit is totally inappropriate for a 90 ft dive in 39 F water. Why was the OP even attempting to do this dive without proper exposure protection? Why did the instructor not require his students to be in dry suits?

2. The OP was using a rented exposure suit, rented or borrowed doubles and rented or borrowed wings. Is this because he is not yet committed to technical diving, because he is not experienced in the location the diving was to take place or some other reason?

3. The OP stated that the wings he had had a shortened lower dump operating string which he had trouble using. Why did he not add an extension or use a different set of wings if he liked to use this dump? (Personally, I almost never use the lower dump. I prefer to stick with the one on the corrugated hose. It is simpler to use only one control without having to fumble around trying to find the one in back, especially while wearing heavy gloves.)

4. Did the OP overweight himself with the ankle weights? Why did the instructor let him use angle weights?

5. The narrative seems to suggest that the OP made his descent holding on to the rope and was using the rope to control his descent/buoyancy. At this level of training that should not be necessary. At this level of training, a student should be expected to have excellent buoyancy control and be able to make his descent without touching the line unless there is a strong current. Perhaps the OP is not yet ready for a technical class.

6. Uncontrolled hyperventilation, no matter what the cause, is always sufficient reason to terminate the dive. Why did the OP continue on? Such is an accident about to happen.

The OP seems to have been completely out of his comfort zone, not skilled in buoyancy control and uncomfortable and unfamiliar with his equipment. To prevent a future repetition of the related events, I would urge him to take a step back and work to prepare himself before resuming his technical course.


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North Carolina USA
# of dives
500 - 999
you mean Quaaludes divingCRNA!
Last edited:


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New Jersey
# of dives
50 - 99
Personally I think you went wrong from the begining and attempting to dive (5/7 mil wetsuit in 39F water) was a risk in it's own. I dive in the northeast and waters are what you had experinced I cant imagine diving waters that temp in a 5-7. I dive drysuit with 2 layers going to waters that cold/Deep. As well as use 7mm Hood/ 7mm gloves or drygloves. The cold will hurt you more then anything as you have now seen it takes a lot out of you.

And personally I think its rather foolish of the instructor to allow you to dive a wetsuit that size. I could be wrong But I believe the Shop I trained with Won't even do a (Tech Course) unless you have a drysuit or some form of secondary lift.

The big think is that you know what mistakes you made and you learned from it. Wish you the best and glad your safe.


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# of dives
2500 - 4999
I want to hear what type of tanks the diver was using and also how much lead he was carrying.


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Ottawa, Canada
# of dives
100 - 199
I want to hear what type of tanks the diver was using and also how much lead he was carrying.

Also, some additional details about the OP's diving background might suggest additional potential problem areas. (The OP might want to fill in some of his profile.) For example, if someone who's dove for years with similar exposure protection in northern lakes is a bit different from someone who's never dove in cold water or with a thick wetsuit before.


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First of all, I want to thank everyone for their thoughtful responses. As many of you have pointed out, there are a number of important lessons here.

Some people have asked specifically what kind of gear I was diving. It was dual Steel 100's with BP/W in DIR configuration.

In terms of the quarry, the max depth was around 300 ft. However, the quarry steps down... it isn't a sinkhole. So we had a bottom for our 90ft dive that we could follow up.

Here are some of my lessons learned from this dive.

First of all, as many have mentioned, comfort with your gear is huge:

-Even when diving jacket BC and single alum 80, it is important to be able to operate every single piece of your gear (i.e. back dump valve). As Capt Dale aptly pointed out, if I wanted to use my back dump valve and was having issues with it at 30ft, then why didn't I attach a longer leader and a weighted cap so that I could find it in an emergency? The answer is I kind of forgot about it while trying to get the rest of my gear setup the way I wanted, and blew it off. I knew it was a problem, but I ignored it because I figured the odds of me needing it were fairly low. Big mistake.

-Wetsuit was inappropriate for the conditions. To some extent I trusted the dive shop on this one, and had been told that it should be ok. At 30ft in the quarry, it was perfect. At deeper depths, it was completely inadequate. Nevertheless, I had plenty of time to scrub the dive before I ever left the line (will discuss this further down). As far as wetsuit versus dry suit for this type of diving, I think that there are appropriate wet suits for this type of diving. Unfortunately, I wasn't wearing one. I am not dry suit certified, and obviously given the amount of new gear I was using already, it probably wasn't a good idea to throw that in the mix as well.

-Regarding the ankle weights, I believe they actually improved my buoyancy control and trim significantly. In fact, I think they might have been the one thing gear wise that I did correctly during this dive. I had a bottom weight on the steel tanks previously, and that just tended to make the rig turtle.... it didn't improve my trim or control. The ankle weights actually gave me much better control, and actually were probably quite important in allowing me to arrest my initial out of control ascent. I think things might have been much worse without them. In terms of overweighting in general, the steel tanks already made me too negatively buoyant for the type of wetsuit I was wearing (a separate issue in itself). While the ankle weights made me more so obviously, I think they did much more good than harm.

As far as things I could have done differently leading up to the accident.

First of all, I should have called this dive at 75ft when I realized that my core temperature was being negatively impacted by the thermocline. I decided to try to save the dive by seeing how I felt at the bottom. Gear/prep problems aside, this was mistake #1.

In terms of relying on the down line, I was simply using it as a guide down. It wasn't a crutch for most of the dive, however I severely underestimated the impact of pressure on squeezing my wetsuit and thereby making the steel tanks extremely negatively buoyant at 90ft. By the time I got to that depth, it had become a crutch only to the extent that I didn't want to leave the line if my wing wasn't working properly. Clearly more time spent working up to this depth would have improved my familiarity with wing buoyancy at depth.

Some people have mentioned that the instructor should have called the dive as soon as I signaled to ascend. Unfortunately, another student was in the middle of doing an isolation drill with his tanks, which involves turning off gas and switching regulators. This same student had a problem the previous day with this drill, that had resulted in an out of control (and out of air) ascent from 30 ft to the surface. I believe this same student was doing the isolation drill when I signaled to ascend, and I wasn't under duress at the time, so I don't think the instructor made a mistake here. He wrapped the drill and we left to ascend immediately after.

Given my issues in the water, I should have insisted on returning to the down line to ascend. This was an option that went through my head, but I "went with the flow" when the instructor signaled to do a free ascent up the incline. My mask flooding problems, in addition to buoyancy issues all could have been controlled had I ascended up the line.

I do feel that the instructor somewhat took for granted my request to ascend, as he headed away from me up the incline and signaled for me to follow. Given that I had requested the ascent, I do think he should have stayed closer to me at that point. I think the fact that I was calm at 90 ft gave the instructor the impression that I had a minor problem, and that whatever the issue was it was no big deal. Feeling like I had to catch up to the instructor while following an unknown path to the surface did add some additional stress to an already stressful situation.

Past this point in the dive, my lack of familiarity with the rig made the eventual problem almost inevitable. Some made the comment that the instructor shouldn't have inflated my BC, but this is ignoring the reality of the situation, which is that once someone is out of control, there are no more good options, or truly correct decisions. You are only doing what you think is best at the time to help that person out of an already very bad situation. The instructor just as easily could have not inflated my BC, at which point I could have sunk to the bottom (about 55-65ft on the inclined ledge), landed head first, and sucked in a bunch of water and drown. I was negatively buoyant at the time and heading face down, couldn't see anything, and was clearly panicked. I also believe the instructor was having a hard time telling whether I was breathing normally still, or having some other pulmonary issue (probably difficult to tell given my hyperventilation). While we had gone to 90ft, I had called the dive in less than 5 minutes, so we had no deco obligation. We were in 50-60ft of water when I lost control. So in truth, hindsight aside, the decision to send me to the surface was probably one of the more correct things to do. I will admit that I was a little annoyed when I first learned this was how I ended up ascending, but after some reflection I realized that the instructor was simply trying to make the best of a bad situation that I had created. At the end of the day, we all have to take responsibility for our own actions while diving, and I wouldn't have ascended that way had I not created the situation in the first place.

Anyway, I would appreciate further comments on my thoughts, and hope the discussion continues. This was a very scary experience for me, and I hope to use it to make sure I don't put myself in this situation ever again. There is probably something to Capt Dale's comment that you can't be half in on tech diving, and that having your own gear and knowing how to dive it is more than worth the investment (certainly a lot cheaper than your life). I admit that I am guilty of wanting to try it out without making the investment of $3-4k minimum to have all my own gear, but at the same time that seems cheap compared to drowning in a quarry in the future.

This was an Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures class, for those who wanted to know.


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Where to begin....

Master skills shallow, then if necessary demonstrate them deeper if necessary.

Having a student who struggled with a valve drill on the first shallow dive *repeat* this drill at 90 makes zero sense.

If your story represents the true facts I would strongly recommend finding qualified instruction elsewhere.



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Scuba Instructor
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Reno, NV
Just some thoughts to help you:

The back dump is a simple piece of knotted string for a reason. Adding length and a knob at the end would have negated this. I'm surprised this wasn't covered in your class, since it is an introductory-level one for the equipment.

FWIW, I have never had my reach to the butt dump obstructed, even with dry gloves and a rack of stages. Quite often there will be a floaty bottle in the way, a simple push down on the bottle, though, and the dump falls easily to hand. Again, I'm surprised this craft of diving wasn't covered in the pool.

Diving double steels with a wetsuit is indeed a big deal. This is way beyond a balanced rig, and demands redundant buoyancy of some kind, which it doesn't sound like you had. It is boggling that your instructor allowed you to dive with this configuration. ...At the very least you should have been briefed on what would happen.


So often in teaching situations I see events that would have been prevented with "prep work", such as configuring gear, adjusting trim, working through the basics, before moving to open water. This prep work is sometimes a PITA and is glossed over... and could have happened here.


Suffice to say you were part of a cascade of mistakes that started before you were even in the water. It's too bad you aren't on the west coast - I have the perfect tech instructor to refer you to.

All the best, James

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