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Missing Diver

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by toodive4, Jul 30, 2005.

  1. toodive4

    toodive4 Instructor, Scuba

    ... Well, we did find him... eventually

    In a quarry somewhere along the US east coast today a diver went missing. While this is not an unusual occurrence, this story is intended to enlighten new divers to what can occur under even the best of circumstances.

    A group of 5 divers got in the water together and had mapped out a plan. The visibility was about 10 feet, the bottom temperature about 48 F and there were to highly experienced divers diving with 3 relatively new divers. The Dive Control Specialist would lead the group to a depth of 45 feet to see a school bus, an Instructor (me) would follow up the rear in case anyone had a problem. Now keep in mind, these other three are all divers already OW certified and all with at least 25 dives in their logbook.

    To start the dive we descended to a platform to use as our launch base. As I began counting heads (should have 5) I went 3-4-5-6-7-8-9... suddenly another group of divers swam onto the platform with us... then 10 then 11... In the limited vis it was impossible to tell who was who in that mass of people. I figured my group would stick to the plan and we'd all be on the platform after the other group passed by.

    Most of the group eventually disappeared and I started my head count again... (being an Instructor I take notice of things)... there was Rick and there was the Dive Con John... I looked up... looked down... looked all around and suddenly realized we were missing Ray and Robert. Of course my first thought was they followed the other group in error, but none the less I surfaced to see if either had gone to the surface. Yep... there was Robert hovering above the next platform over. I yelled for him to stay put and I'd send John and Rick over to him. I also looked for bubbles on the surface (looking for Ray) but didn't see any anywhere. Even the other group had turned the corner and were out of sight. At this point I had no idea where Ray was but still assumed he was off with that Group. I told Rick, Robert and John to continue their dive while I went looking for Ray. I circled back to the descent point and looked to see if he had got tangled up in a tree or was out of air on the bottom. I then went back to the entry point and asked the women sitting there in her chair if anyone had come back out of the water... Nope. I got out of the water and as a precautionary measure notified the Quarry personnel that "we may have a missing diver." By this time the other group (9 people - 7 students & 2 Leaders) and our group (John, Robert and Rick) had come back. They surfaced and we discovered that Ray was not with any of them. We looked out across the quarry and there were no bubbles anywhere. At this point we thought we really had a missing diver. A bottom search was begun by myself, the dive con, a quarry employee and the two dive leaders from the class. All of us knowing the quarry well scoured the quarry for the body... we couldn't find Ray.

    The Quarry owner got out his canoe and rowed out around the corner to the other side of the quarry.... there he found a diver floating on the surface... alive and well... He asked him if he was Ray and Ray said "Yep that's me." Apparently in that mass traffic Jam on the platform followed the last two other divers off on a grand tour... for most of the time thinking he was with us. He said he did realize at some point that they were the wrong people, but by that time it was too late... Ray wasn't familiar with the quarry... so he had two new buddies.

    In the end, all turned out well... but the morals of this story are many. While we had a plan and had taken a quick look at what we were all wearing... apparently some of us looked and paid more attention than others. The lost buddy rule didn't apply for Ray... because Ray really never thought he was lost... and in a sense he wasn't.

    Ray did cause my blood pressure to rise significantly and took a few years off of my heart. As I swam around looking for his body thinking to myself "I'm gonna get sued... I'll be talking to police and filling out paperwork for months, I know he has a wife...what will I say to her...$^!#)

    In the end I was pleased with the actions of the quarry staff, the assitance offered by the other leaders on site and the direction I had taken. From entry into the water to the time he was located was only 22 minutes. He still had 1300PSI in his tank when located... so air was never an issue. We felt it was critical to find him within 40 minutes knowing that had he become entangled (which is possible in this quarry) or trapped under or in one of the attractions (bus, plane etc...) that his air would last approximately 40-45 minutes. We accomplished the search and locate 18 minutes ahead of schedule... not bad.

  2. String

    String Master Instructor

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Grand Cayman
    Sounds like exactly the reason i hate group diving in limited vis.
  3. ChrisA

    ChrisA Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Redondo Beach, California
    I think what this says is that groups of five is bad idea.
    I was in the water this morning with a group of five but
    our plan was to have twp buddy teams, Plan was if you
    lost your buddy you come up, iif you loos one of the other guys
    stay down.

    Turned out me and my budy did get "lost". He ran low on air
    so I surfaced with him. The others continued on for another
    20 minutes.
  4. scubafool

    scubafool Solo Diver

    Whew! Serious sunken gut feeling going on there, I would say.

    ALMOST had a slightly similar experience during a cavern dive a while back. Myself & two buddies were diving a cavern. The next thing 2 of us knew, # 3 was swimming full tilt further into the cave. One of us had to chase him down. It turns out he was following a 2 person cave team that DID look a lot like the other 2 of us.

    It sounds as though you thought through the steps you took rather well.

    I am glad that you were able to post this here, rather than in the Accidents & Incidents forum.
  5. Wildcard

    Wildcard Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives:
    Location: Alaska
    Just a thought after something simmilar a few weeks ago, how about a piece of flagging ribbon around the ankle of each diver in the group? Then you know which group your with. May be a good idea for crowded spots.
  6. String

    String Master Instructor

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Grand Cayman

    Unless they all get the same idea (and ribbon) :)
  7. asmith5

    asmith5 Angel Fish

    I always make sure that I am always able to identify my wife when we are underwater. I know the colors of her mask, fins, and any other bright colored equipment she is wearing. The only time we were separated was in a low vis certification dive when I ran low on air and had to do a CESA. The other divers had kick up the muck at the bottom and I could find her to give a signal that I was going up. She surfaced shortly after when she realized I was not in sight. Some of the other divers had problems getting down to the platform and I was the first one down. I had to wait a long time before we started our certification tests so I didn't have much air left at the end and had to surface before we made it back to the platform. I used up a lot of air clearing a leaky mask because I didn't shave before the dive. The dive master told me to ascend when he saw how much air I had left. When we got back to shore he told me I did everything right. I was on the platform for more than 20 minutes before the last diver made it down and my tank only started with 2500 PSI.
  8. StSomewhere

    StSomewhere Loggerhead Turtle

    toodive4, so what's the consensus on how to deal with this in the future? What (if anything) will change on your training dive briefings?
  9. Floridawannabe

    Floridawannabe Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Ozark, MO
    Even though it was probably a gut wrenching experience. It sounds like you did everything right. Also, Ray did too when he noticed that the other two he was following was not in his group. Diving in lakes I know what your talking about low visability. I am glad everything turned out great :D Like someone else suggested, maybe tie a Chem lights on your BC or top of your tanks to help identify your group.
  10. ICY ICE

    ICY ICE Photographer

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: 90041
    Home depot sell a marker tape..........it comes in bright colors; green, red, blue and yellow. At $4 ea, it's affordable and could help identifing each other.

    Found where all the levels are, used by land survey industry.

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