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Helper in trouble-involuntary manslaughter

Discussion in 'Scuba Related Court Cases' started by trintrax, Sep 13, 2009.

  1. trintrax

    trintrax Solo Diver

    I was following a discussion in a german scuba board. I would like to share it here as it is a interesting court decision about a diver helping his buddy but making things worse.

    A court in switzerland decided that the divebuddy, who was also an instructor, handled negligent by helping his divebuddy in the wrong manner.
    This court decision gave me a lot to think about.

    Sorry, but I can't send links yet. Will send the link in a following post.

    Two divers, where one of them was an instructor, where diving private. The second diver was still unexperienced. It seems that he was in panic when his mask had a serious leak. He made a rapid ascend. The experienced diver hold him back. During that action the panicked diver lost his regulator. The instructor pushed him his octopus in his mouth. He refused to take it and apparently wanted again to ascend rapidly. The instructor forced the reserve regulator in his mouth but he spit it out again. Finally the diver lost his life.

    The court gave two main reasons for their decision. First he should have just slowed the ascend and not stopped it. The diver wanted to go up, so he should have just slowed the rapid ascend.
    But more important for the court was that the helper didn't push the purge button when pushing the octopus in the divers mouth. Spitting the octopus out must be seen as a sign that it is not working and he was inhaling water.

    I have learned this procedure in my VDTL(CMAS similar) formation, but it doesn't seem to be a big concern in other diving training programs.
    I think that a panicked diver that hasn't got enough air left in his lungs will most probably not be able to flush the regulator by himself.
    But would I have thought of that in this situation? I must also say that it was a lake dive. It is nothing said about the vis but in the "lake constance" it varies between 5meter and 10cm.
    Having a panicked diver, rapid ascend, lost regulator, water inhalation situation in low visibility really scares me.:errrr:
    As a highly experienced instructor he had to help his buddy by law...
  2. DCBC

    DCBC Tech Instructor

    # of Dives:
    Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Interesting case. It's always unfortunate when someone dies while diving. When you impede the actions of a paniced person, it's reasonable to expect an uncontrolled reaction. It's easy to say that the instructor did the wrong thing (while sipping my morning coffee, content before the computer screen), but in-hindsight, there's little doubt that the instructor's action caused the diver to lose his regulator, which led to his death. I suspect that there was a lot more to it than what you described. In cases like this, the instructor can only exercise his best judgement. What would I have done? I'm not sure as each case is different, but this has happened to me and I followed the diver to the surface. At the time, I felt that wrestling a paniced diver underwater would make little sense.
    gtto likes this.
  3. trintrax

    trintrax Solo Diver

  4. Seanpaul

    Seanpaul Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives:
    Location: Switzerland
    If you can private mail me with the link or post here, this concerns me greatly as I just successfully passed the Instructor's exam!
  5. carrielsal

    carrielsal Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Austin, TX
    So what was the penalty the court imposed on the instructor?
  6. Seanpaul

    Seanpaul Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives:
    Location: Switzerland
    A fine of 2,700 CHF about the same in USD at the moment. Note that the Swiss legal system is not like the USA.

    Der entscheidende Fehler war für das Gericht jedoch, dass der Angeklagte dem Opfer mehrfach den Reserve-Atemregler in den Mund geschoben hat, ohne die Luftdusche zu drücken. «Die Reaktion des Opfers, das Ausspucken des Mundstückes, zeigt, dass ihm während diesem kritischen Zeitraum vom Angeklagten faktisch Wasser statt Luft zugeführt wurde», schreibt das Gericht in seiner Begründung. Das stelle eine eindeutige Fehlleistung dar.

    What I find interesting is the that the court stated the determining fault was the repeated placement of the auxiliary into the victims mouth without purging. Stating that the "reaction of the victim by spitting out the mouthpiece during this critical period showed that the victim was getting water and not air in the mouth."
    elizabeth517 likes this.
  7. DiveMom1

    DiveMom1 Photographer

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Lake Berryessa, CA
    Sounds to me [a nobody] that none of the "court" were divers!
    kbashara likes this.
  8. Graeme Tolton

    Graeme Tolton Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Orangeville, Ontario, Canada
    It seems to me that the instructor was counting on the diving to either have enough air in his lungs to clear the regulator or to remember his training, to use the purge button to clear the reg. I know when I do OOG drills, i have never pushed the purge button. Perhaps this is wrong?
  9. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Sonoma County, CA
    I believe the the context to put this in, is that the defendant held the victim underwater against his will without using every means to save him.

    Mabe they did have divers on the jury. I don't think it would be such a resonable verdict ( fined one months pay ) in the US.

  10. Buzoferoz

    Buzoferoz Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives:
    Location: Tenacatita Jalisco Mexico
    Im an instructor my self.

    I have a situation similar to the one posted here.

    I was conducting a open water cert in a lake here in mexico, on a lake in zacatecas, deep was 27 feet max, vis 15 feet a group of 3 students DM and my Self I have a buoy and anchor.

    I was trained in order to roll my leg on the anchor line in order to have someting to hold on and use my hands in case of urgent assistance.

    I call my student in order to perform a flood mask drill, he took his mask off and start kikingto surface very rapidly.

    I got a hold of him and the mask almost at the very frist moment this happen, I grabbed my student by the BC and he push me away at the moment he lost regulator out of his mouth, I grabbed his reg and start going up to surface with him HOLDING MY self and MY STUDENT by the LINE, I rapidly replace his reg on his mouth purging so he can get fresh air as he get the second stage on his mouth. He still refuse the reg but I stik the 2nd stage and purge on his mout so at the time we surface he was figthing against me with his eyes closed (he took off his mask at the very begining) he opened eyes and realize we were on surface.

    this can happen to any one.

    lack of training on the student divers???
    I dont think so because I conducted pool sesions and he and the rest of the dive team perform outstanding.

    these group in particular they all were firefighers, and the student that I refer he was a leutenent...

    I believe the instructor did exelent and he was a victim of Lack experience Jury and prosecutor.

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