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Panicked diver this weekend

Discussion in 'Near Misses and Lessons Learned' started by jlcnuke, May 29, 2019.

  1. jlcnuke

    jlcnuke Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: acworth ga
    437
    295
    63
    So, this weekend I really wanted to get some diving in. The local chapter of Diveheart was also conducting a rescue diver class and, since I am starting to volunteer with them, I wanted to meet up with them and probably help out some.

    So, assuming I could find a buddy at the quarry (usually a good assumption this time of year) I went up to the quarry figuring "worst case" I'd just help out with the rescue class. I showed up and checked in, where I found the guy who showed up before me was also needing a buddy.. wee~ I have a buddy instantly). I asked if he wanted to buddy up, introduced ourselves, and briefly talked about diving (he mentioned diving on vacation and I told him I'd just got back from a dive trip). We then discussed the dive plan, deciding to go to some things around 45 ft in the quarry as he said he was only OW certified.

    I set up my gear and told him I'd meet him on the dock to do weight checks (new setup for me in this environment, he was using rental gear as he wasn't from the area, just here for work. He asked me to do a buddy check of his gear before I left (responsible, but this also should have clued me in to ask more about his recent diving experience). I got in the water after meeting the group from Diveheart, and helped them out with some rescue class exercises while my buddy got his gear on and weight checks done (had to go back for more weight as he said he didn't have enough the first time). Then we were ready to go dive.

    The plan was simple - follow the line from the dock we were all at to the first things we were going to check out, then continue in that same direction upward to some more shallow things where we should be able to get our safety stop done while checking out stuff underwater. Visibility was ~10 ft and the water temp drops about 8-10 degrees (F) at about 20 ft.

    So I lead the way down the line (near, not "on") and check on him as I hit ~5 ft, he's about 2 ft down and looking okay. About 30 seconds later I check on him again to make sure I'm not going to fast/slow. As I look back on the line, I don't see him where I expect to see him, just bubbles. I follow the bubbles down and see him at around 25 feet (I'm at about 10 ft now). What I see is a diver that is clearly panicked, arms and legs flailing but still descending. I rush to him while holding and pointing to my inflator. He does notice what I'm doing just before I reach him and inflates his BCD... completely. So now I grab him, spread eagle myself to slow his ascent, and start deflating his BCD. I tried to get him to look at me and tell him to breathe slowly but that's doing nothing.

    We get to the surface and I talk to him letting him know everything is fine, he's safe, etc. I found out that he had problems equalizing as he started descending. So the then concentrated on that, but forgot to go up to equalize, so he just kept trying to pinch his nose and equalize. Wearing a 5mm suit with hood wasn't normal for him. As he tried to equalize, the suit was compressing, and he was becoming more negatively buoyant but not realizing what is happening (as he was concentrating on the pain in his ear). The task loading of dealing with not being able to equalize, getting some water in his mask, and descending uncontrolled was too much for him and he just panicked. The incident only resulted in him hurting an ear (it was still hurting an hour later so I suggested he see a doctor about it, which I believe he will).

    What I learned was that I should have paid more attention to learning about my insta-buddy's experience diving, as well as experience diving in the conditions we had (colder water, poor visibility, etc). I could have changed the dive plan and moved the entry to somewhere that we could have done things slower, with a shallow hard bottom etc. I was too busy concentrating on meeting some new people, as well as wanting to get to diving in a place I was comfortable already, and didn't take enough time to consider what my buddy needed. I usually only encounter divers with lots of experience when diving locally so I'd become complacent in checking on my buddy. The location we were at goes to about 145 ft below our entry, so I'm glad the vis was low so I checked back as frequently as I did since normally I wouldn't check on my buddy twice in the first minute of the dive. But if I'd checked a few minutes later instead, it could have been much worse. We got lucky this time, but now I have a good reminder to ensure I know the capabilities of the other divers I'm with before splashing.
     
    Kimela, Steve_C and Soloist like this.
  2. caruso

    caruso Banned

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Long Island, NY
    1,663
    1,190
    113
    The one thing I don't get is that you descended near the line but not actually on it- yet you would be keeping the line in sight, by staying within 10 feet of it due to the vis, most likely much closer. Somehow he went from a few feet above you to 20 feet below you and you never saw him go by? Or his bubbles?
     
  3. jlcnuke

    jlcnuke Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: acworth ga
    437
    295
    63
    I was about 3 ft in front of him. The plan was to follow the line down. I was in the lead and he was right behind me, so when he descended it happened behind me, not on top of me.
     
  4. caruso

    caruso Banned

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Long Island, NY
    1,663
    1,190
    113
    Ok, the way you describe it, you weren't even using the line as a reference point, you couldn't see it because it was behind you, you were doing a free ascent in 10' of visibility to a depth of 45 feet, which can somewhat tricky and not necessary when you've got a line right there. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
     
  5. jlcnuke

    jlcnuke Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: acworth ga
    437
    295
    63
    Ah, perhaps I described it poorly. The line extends, and slowly drops, from the dock to another reference point in the quarry. We were to descend and swim along (and down with) the line. Not "holding" the line, but going "with" the line. So when I looked behind me for him, I was looking along the line expecting him to be right behind me on/by the line, but I only saw his bubbles there, as he had unintentionally descended below the line we were supposed to follow.
     
    caruso and Steve_C like this.
  6. Soloist

    Soloist Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: North Carolina
    777
    1,009
    93
    Insta-buddies are like a box of chocolates! Sounds like he was not properly weighted among other things.
     
    oly5050user likes this.
  7. jlcnuke

    jlcnuke Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: acworth ga
    437
    295
    63
    I believe from what I saw and talking to him afterwards that he was over-weighted, forgot to "pre-equalize" and then waited to long to equalize, forgot to inflate his BCD as he descended, then started getting water in his mask while trying to equalize (unsuccessfully), which further task-loaded him and helped him continue to forget to inflate his BCD as he continued to drop with building pain in his ear from the lack of equalizing and increasing depth. The result of all that was panic and needing assistance.
     
  8. Steve_C

    Steve_C Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh, NC USA
    4,028
    2,593
    113
    Good lesson in multiple ways. Thanks for posting.
     
    jlcnuke likes this.
  9. stretchthepenn

    stretchthepenn Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Atlanta, GA
    177
    93
    28
    At least you started your dive off the east/square dock and headed east. Just imagine if you'd started down the west corner to the bus, or started off the west/U dock...
     
    Rollin Bonz likes this.
  10. Diving Dubai

    Diving Dubai Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Dubai UAE
    2,990
    2,638
    113
    My take away from reading your post, is that you simply fell into the trap that the majority divers do, and that is, to become self engrossed in their own descent getting themselves comfortable etc. We all do it to some extent.

    This is not a criticism, rather advice from someone who guides divers of "unknown" ability.

    The first few feet are the most important. I tend to get down to a shallow depth, then wait for the other divers, because I know that the most likely issues I'll encounter at that point, is buoyancy, equalisation mask flooding and other minor equipement issues which often task load the diver. If that happens then I'm in a position to assist for both, once we get past that, then I'm making a bubble check and monitoring their comfort all the way down, while taking care of myself.

    Then during rest of the dive you have to keep your head on a swivel

    Don't be disheartened as it's a learning experience. Leading dives is a skill which has to be learned not just gained by having the most dives, and it requires the person leading to be comfortable with the additional task loading it inevitably entails
     

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