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Very near miss - panic and hyperventilation at 70 feet

Discussion in 'Near Misses and Lessons Learned' started by jsnorman, Sep 16, 2015.

  1. jsnorman

    jsnorman Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Chicago, IL
    I thought so too. Remember though that the same thing would have happened even if I dived with the Atomic; still would have been overwieghted and had no inflation. The lack of alternate air supply was an additional risk that in this case did not cause a problem.

    I *always* dive with multiple (>2) air sources nowadays (pony with its own reg which is the same quality as my primary reg and maintained at the same level, primary on long hose, secondary on short hose/necklace, and tertiary on inflatory).
  2. seeker242

    seeker242 DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Pompano Beach, FL
    Lesson learned, don't abandon your buddy! Jesus...
  3. jsnorman

    jsnorman Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Chicago, IL
    It was more like 30 minutes, because I was hanging on the anchor rope for 10 minutes too! That last 10 minutes was the longest 10 minutes of my life. He said later that he thought I was just photographing stuff. And to be fair, I told him that when I start taking pictures, I might stay in one place for a long time trying to get a shot. I am not making excuses for him ... he could have been a better dive partner for sure, but (1) I should not have dived at all under the circumstances, especially not in such a new environment for me, and (2) I was out of practice on a basic emergency skill and that played into the whole mess; swapping regs and clearing is something that needs to be practiced all the time so you don't need to think about it in an emergency - that is one of the important lessons I learned. I had done this a hundred times in the past both in practice and actual emergency situations, but that was years before this incident and I never thought about how important it was to keep practicing those skills.

    But lets say he was a contributing factor. Even so, I think it is important to dive as if you were solo; unless you are lucky enough to have a good friend you dive with all the time, relying on a buddy who is really a stranger to save you is a bad idea IMHO. Absent some extreme and completely circumstances outside of my control, like a sudden current, medical issue, shark bite, or the like, my dive buddy should never have to "rescue" me IMHO. Like I said, I have had to rescue divers twice and it was those experiences that led me to dive with a pony bottle even before this. Now, I assume my dive buddy will be a complete idiot, and that in no event will he ever be able to assist me in an emergency. With that mindset, I feel a lot safer. And if I have [a rare] buddy who is actually prepared and trained, that is gravy but not something I expect.

    Gong back to lessons learned, in my opinion the lesson here was NOT that my buddy made mistakes or that he could have been better. The lesson I learned was that I need to be completely self-sufficient, and make judgments based on my own feelings and *not* rely on a buddy, even an expert diver, or DM, to provide that judgment. Just my two cents, and obviously you can find lots of lessons here.
  4. AfterDark

    AfterDark Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Rhode Island, USA
    Thanks for sharing, hope you don’t regret it. Pardon me if I come across like an A-hole but here’s my take:

    Do not be shy about cancelling a dive if there is even the slightest equipment issue.

    This took 20 years to learn?!?

    Don't let peer pressure move you to be overconfident in your ability to dive in an unfamiliar situation or with faulty equipment.

    This took 20 years to learn?!?

    Don't ever, ever, dive in open water with new equipment unless you have taken in out in a controlled situation first.

    This took 20 years to learn?!?

    Always do a buoyancy check, preferably in the pool, with the exact equipment you will dive with, especially if trying out new types of equipment or when changing from salt to fresh water or vice versa.

    If you are diving in salt water you are still going to need to adjust your weight from the pool unless the pool is salt water.

    When doing a buoyancy check in OW, make sure your buddy is right in front of you and watching.

    Make sure the water is shallow 7’-10’ max!

    When diving in a new environment for the first time, use equipment that you are very familiar with, and don't make too many changes at once.

    This is good practice even if diving in familiar environments for the umpteenth time.

    The harshness aside I’m glad you’re ok and are back in the water. Remember panic is the last thing a diver does. Safe diving.
    John C. Ratliff likes this.
  5. undrwater

    undrwater Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Cerritos, CA
    "C'mon! You can orally inflate like you were taught in open water!"

    "You're right...but I need you to keep an eye on me during the descent. This environment and some of this gear is new to me, and adding oral inflation may cause me some task loading."
    jsnorman likes this.
  6. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    Jsnorman, you're still trying to be dismissive of your "buddy's non-buddy behavior " and now that you've explained further all that's changed from my perspective is that my anger has changed to sheer outrage.

    Look, I too drink the kool aide of complete personal responsibility, regardless this, you were effectively PAYING this pos to be your buddy, your guide, your mentor and he accepted that responsibility! But what does he do instead? The list of his egregious actions/non-actions are multiple. You were damn near dead as soon as he agreed to the original terms of your deal.

    I can't recall being this incensed for sometime. :furious: :censored: :cussing: :censored:
    AfterDark and seaseadee like this.
  7. uncfnp

    uncfnp Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: North Carolina
    Mentoring!:shocked2: I'm with Chilly on this one.
    AfterDark likes this.
  8. afdgf

    afdgf Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Long Beach, California
    I wanted to address the inflator hose situation by relating what happened to us and I hope it is relevant. My wife started out with all Aqualung equipment including regulators and BCD so she had an Aqualung hose coming from her first stage to connect with her Aqualung BCD. She decides to get rid of the Aqualung BCD and buys a Mares BCD. I helped her connect the Aqualung hose to the Mares BCD several times and it was always difficult. We had maybe 15 dives at this time. We went into the kelp with the instructor in front, me behind the instructor, my wife behind me, and fortuneately a trainee divemaster behind her. What happened is that the Aqualung hose popped off the Mares BCD and she almost panicked, but the trainee was on the spot and got it put back on for her. When we got back to the boat, the trainee yelled at us for not doing our pre-dive check. But we had done the check, we just knew that we always had trouble with the hose. It turns out that we finally solved the problem by going to a Mares dealer and trying a Mares hose on the Mares BCD. It was smoother than the proverbial snot on a door knob. Even the Mares dealer had to try it several times to convince himself that it was that different. She had purchased the BCD as the last one at the store and it did not come with a hose. When we emailed Mares about it, they sent out a new hose pronto so I cannot blame Mares. Anyway, I hope that provides a little more information about incompatabilites between hoses and BCDs.
    jsnorman likes this.
  9. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    I used to own a ScubaPro BCD (Nighthawk), and it definitely had a standard inflator hose. I have never heard anything different. Now, the ScubaPro Air II alternative air system requires a different inflator hose, but that is a different story--or is it?
    dmoore19 likes this.
  10. jsnorman

    jsnorman Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Chicago, IL
    Hmmm. I don't remember if I had the Air, but that is possible. My buddy referred to the valve as a "Scubapro" valve but perhaps it was really a "Scubapro Air" valve. Maybe I was too quick to put the blame on Scubapro if that is the case (but I still think the idea of standardized parts and standardized configuration is a good thing).

    ---------- Post added September 16th, 2015 at 11:38 PM ----------

    No problem. The reason why I did not share this 3 years ago was I was frankly embarrassed and ashamed that I had disregarded (not forgotten, there is an important difference there) so many basic tenets of diving.

    Yes, I knew the rules I was disregarding; it didn't take me 20 years to learn them, it took me 20 years to be able to disregard those rules so easily.

    After 20 years of diving, many very challenging dives, and being the rescuer on multiple occasions, I really thought I could handle just about any situation. I have never had a panic attack or hyperventilated in my life (except in sixth grade when I got jumped by two older kids doing my paper route, and hyperventilated after being kicked multiple times in the stomach and chest). I was using pony bottles years before this for an extra margin of safety. I really thought I could handle whatever emergency that might happen.

    That made it easier to disregard a few rules. Hubris? Maybe, but it wasn't like I thought I was the king of diving or anything. I thought I knew my limits (for example, I would never have done penetration dives, I pushed back on the second dive because it was 110 feet, I knew I could not don a drysuit without training, I always dived with a pony before (and afer) this incident, etc.) I thought the problem facing me was relatively minor.

    In reality, not having an inflator hose was a relatively minor problem. I should have been able to handle an inflator failure even at depth with ease without breathing in a lungful of water. I should not have rushed inflating the BC - I could have waited till I reached the bottom and then work out calmly how best to handle being overweighted without a working inflator... a very solvable problem if I not overreacted on the way down. I should have thought to dump weights at the bottom one by one before trying to manually inflate the BC. I should have thought to dump my weights once I got to the anchor line.

    What happened was that I focused on the inflator issue, and did not fully think through the cumulative effect of other issues that were unrelated, but became very important during the dive (e.g., that I had not practiced manually inflating the BC since my OW training; I fortunately had not had the occasions to swap to a backup reg for several years before this incident; I had never experienced fear from Scuba diving, much less panic, so I did not realize the impact of fear and ultimately panic on my ability to perform and think underwater; I relied too heavily on my buddy's expertise; I was diving with a constricting 7 mil wetsuit and hood for the first time ever, and was very uncomfortable from the start; etc.).

    And I really don't think I am alone. I know (because I have watched carefully since then) that many experienced divers disregard some "rules" that we learned in OW class. Sometimes, disregarding those rules is a good idea (for example, DIR hose routing is a much improved method versus what PADI or NAUI taught), the current thinking on discarding snorkels which.is very different from the orthodoxy I was taught. Other times, those "rules" yield to experience and common practices (how many folks diving for 20 years have not gone past the 30 meter "limit" at some time)? Other times, the reason is expediency (an diver who uses rental equipment for the first time on an OW dive, without first testing it out in the shallows).

    As I said in my OP, my "cautionary tale" is not just about the rules and lessons learned (which as you say, I already "knew"). It is a caution about the cumulative effect of a bunch of small things, a caution about letting experience substitute for good judgment, and a suggestion to redouble self-training and self-preparedness.

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