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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. Iralub

    Iralub Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Australia
    While I take no issue with your other lessons, I do think you are minimising the responsibility of your buddy. You went diving with him as a mentor and covered the costs of the dive to get benefit of his experience. He was aware that you were diving in unfamiliar conditions and with unfamiliar equipment, which was why you brought him along as a mentor. He was aware of your equipment issues. He encouraged/pressured you to dive notwithstanding your reservations.

    Self sufficiency notwithstanding, this was not a solo dive, this was a buddy team dive. This wasn't a random instabuddy team either, you chose him as a buddy and he knew he was not just a buddy, but also a mentor.

    This buddy/mentor was nowhere in the vicinity during half an hour that you were struggling to not drown. That, to me, is completely unacceptable conduct on his part.

    That doesn't negate your lessons, but maybe another lesson is "don't ever be that sort of buddy when diving in a buddy team"

    Glad you survived and got back into it.
  2. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    chadmeister likes this.
  3. Russoft

    Russoft Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Minneapolis
    I could have had a very similar experience diving a wreck on Lake Superior. Had a HP100 and wife had AL80. She was very underweight and I was very overweight. I'm glad I suspected the problem and we did a buoyancy test in 10 ft water before swimming out into deeper water. As I read you account, it was pretty clear to me you were very over weighted. I guess a little experience in fresh cold water helps as a sanity check.

    I would've kept the original regs on your tank, even with the loose hose. I've dived with a disconnected inflator hose before without causing problems to my first stage. It is pressurized and should keep out water.

    Glad you're still with us! Thanks for relating the story!

    Sent from my SM-G900W8 using Tapatalk
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2015
  4. vincent54

    vincent54 Solo Diver

    On the bottom, pull a weight out a or two and establish bouyency. On the surface, dump all the weights if you feel like you are sinking into the abyss.

    We've all been there. I just messed a Brac dive up and it was in the most ideal conditions. I'll blame mine on age. Keep diving and stick with Cayman diving, you won't have to fiddle with the drysuit. I learned my diving in the great lakes and it can be less than stellar. Cheers
    Yank and jsnorman like this.
  5. jsnorman

    jsnorman Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Chicago, IL
    Yeah, that is why I never dived Lake Michigan before I have heard mixed reviews relative to other places I have been. What really sucks though is that this was supposed to be the first of a series of training dives for me so I could go on the Vancouver trip. The Vancouver trip would have been the dive of a lifetime for me, but I had to cancel after this happened, because I was too freaked out that whole summer and could not be back in the water until a year later. I still don't think I will ever dive in a 7mm suit and hood again. Breathing in water may have caused the hyperventilation all by itself, BUT I really think the constriction caused by the 7 mm suit and hood around my neck sped up my panic/hyperventilation reaction. When I dive the Lake again (I will eventually), it will be in a drysuit.
  6. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    The hoses are all standard--I just want to make sure readers are not confused about this.

    Both ScubaPo and Atomic make an alternative air source that fits on the end of an inflator hose. With ScubaPro, it is called an Air II. With Atomic, it is called an SS1. Both require a larger than normal inflator hose because of the need for greater air flow when it is being used as an alternate air source. If you have one of those on your BCD instead of the normal end of the BCD's inflator hose, you will need the larger hose from the regulator. If you have the standard end to the BCD inflator hose, you will need the standard one.

    Now let me take a guess at what happened with regard to the hoses.

    Your Nighthawk had a ScubaPro Air II alternate, with the proper sized hose for it. It probably did not have a standard alternate air regulator, using the Air II instead. That means it had just the standard ScubPro first and second stage, as you described them. (You do not mention an alternate sir source on that regulator set, so if you don't have another one sitting around, that is what happened.) You then bought a new Atomic regulator set, first and second stage only, to replace it, apparently forgetting that your Nighthwak had a built in alternate air source. You got a new standard inflator hose with it, the dealer also not realizing you had an Air II on your BCD. As you said, with the ScubaPro regulator set now on the pony bottle, you left the Air II hose at home.

    Does that sound like an explanation?
  7. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: NorCal
    Yes you are making excuses for him. May be I'm wrong, but I thought that a mentor is also there to make sure you don't do something stupid while the learning/teaching thing is going on, at least that's the way I've seen it, and do it.

    I believe this "dive as if you were solo" to be one of the more destructive concepts to be espoused in SCUBA. A solo mindset and a buddy mindset are two different ways of diving, team is probably a third. Diving as if you (both of you) were solo, in your case, made the situation much worse than having the other half of the buddy team help. If you are separated from your buddy, it is good to be self sufficient until you can reunite, but one has to wonder if the "solo mindset" is the cause of the seperation.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm a solo diver most of the time, but when I buddy dive my focus is on my buddy and stick to the buddy mindset, and so far I haven't lost one.

    What you should have learned is that you need to work on your buddy skills, as should your buddy. Being "completely self-sufficient" on a buddy dive put you in the situation you were in, you had a dive plan and so did your buddy but neither had any commitment to it.

    Glad to hear you managed to drag yourself out of a real mess, a less skilled and determined diver would be on the accidents section. I dare say you will hear about all the lessons you should have learned until this thread runs itself into the ground, that's what is called help on the internet.

    "the future is uncertain and the end is always near"
    Jim Morrison

    Iralub and undrwater like this.
  8. Angry Turtle

    Angry Turtle Manta Ray

    I agree with many of the posters about the mentor/buddy's lack of care is frightening. I am glad you are ok now.

    It surprises me a lot that a "experienced wreck diver" would not recognize and point out that diving with a disconnected inflator hose is a non-issue, and went along with the crazy idea that the only way to save the dive was to swap your regulator to one that would leave you without an alternate. There was absolutely no benefit to doing that.
    scagrotto likes this.
  9. jsnorman

    jsnorman Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Chicago, IL
    Very possible, except I always had an octo before this incident (now I use the short hose/long hose from DIR, but same idea). When I got my atomic regs, I removed the octo from the MK17 reg myself. I don't recall that the BC had a built in Air source, but it could have and I might just never have noticed?? I bought the BC as a floor model so it is conceivable that it already had the Air when I bought it.

    I always assumed it was the "scubapro" valve as my buddy described it, but I take your word that they are standardized too.

    ---------- Post added September 17th, 2015 at 01:24 PM ----------

    I just wanted to thank everyone for their input on this. I take all input seriously and don't mind if some of it is critical, its more important to me to avoid this kind of situation in the future.

    I am interested also in hearing thoughts on my decision not to dump my weights at the bottom. When this was all over with, my buddy was rather upset that I hadn't simply dumped my weights. Once I hit 70 feet (after inhaling water and starting to hyperventilate) I just did not feel it was safe to dump or do any form of emergency ascent while I was hyperventilating and not able to control my breathing; but I admit I was not thinking clearly at that point in time. If I had been thinking clearly, taking out the weights one at a time or grabbing the anchor line and then dumping would clearly have been better, but those options never occurred to me at the time.

    I read a lot of the Diver DAN incident reports, and I know a lot of divers end up dead or seriously impaired doing emergency ascents. The idea of dumping my weights and doing an emergency ascent seems like a very last resort, especially since I did have plenty of air and a working reg. Putting aside the better options for a controlled weight dump that did not occur to me, would it have been a better decision to dump all my weight once I started to hyperventilate and have trouble breathing?

    In the retrospect of 3 years, I can still see pros and cons to dumping vs pulling myself up the anchor line. On the pro emergency ascent side of the equation, I could have passed out while trying to reach the surface; the reg could have been ejected from my mouth in a fit of coughing and I would have certainly drowned then. Getting to the surface as quickly as possible would have made it easier to rescue me if I did pass out. The con to dumping my weights and doing an emergency ascent would be the possibility of an embolism while hyperventilating on ascent, and maybe the fact that I would have ended up on the surface without a line to grab (though maybe buoyant enough at that point to avoid drowning in the waves).

    I wonder whether dumping all your weights and doing an emergency ascent is ever a good idea absent a total out of air emergency? And if you are hyperventilating was I correct to fear that it could result in an embolism?
  10. Angry Turtle

    Angry Turtle Manta Ray

    yeah, in retrospect you should have dumped at least enough weights to let you swim up.

    I'd rather take a hit over drowning while passed out.

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