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Thread: Diver death in Catalina this weekend?

 


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    SassyScubaGal's Avatar
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    Diver death in Catalina this weekend?

    Hey Gang,

    These kinds of questions r always a big bummer but has anyone heard anything about a diver dying at the Underwater Park in Catalina on Friday (10/12)?

    Was there over the weekend (Fri-Sun)...Things were really quiet at Casino Pt on Fri... Hardley any divers out...Somewhere between 3:30 & 5 pm I think, we saw the rescue boat go out & pull someone out. Not to be crass but the person didn't make it-- Saw them put them in a body bag (couldn't even tell if it was a man or woman). Gear was set aside but couldn't tell if it belonged to the person or not. Saw a nitrox tank but didn't see a "buddy".

    We obviously didn't want to hang around & be "looky-loos"... Let the rescue team do their job. Bowed our heads in a moment of silence. Later, asked around town at the dive shops & nobody seemed to know about it. But the waitress at the little restaurant right next to the Casino told us that a diver had died... She didn't know why... This makes 2 at the Underwater park this year...

    So tragic. Has anyone heard anything?
    Sassy SG

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    drbill's Avatar
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    Haven't heard a word about it, but I've been diving the King Neptune every day since Thursday, and haven't been near the dive park. Will see if anyone I know has any information when I get a chance.

    Unfortunately we do lose on the order of a dozen divers in Catalina waters each year. We lost three the opening week of lobster season last year. Of course these are usually not on any of the local boats or diving with local shops.
    Dr. Bill: I once had a 6-pack but now I have a full keg... well, maybe just a pony!
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    Thanks Dr. Bill. So strange that nobody would even know about it... Makes me wonder if it was really a diver (vs a swimmer/boater)... But that's what the waitress at the restaurant told us... And it was def at the UW Park. Tragic either way. Thx!
    Sassy SG

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    Ken Kurtis's Avatar
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    A couple of factual corrections here.

    1. The accident alluded to in this thread happened at Santa Barbara Island on 10/12/07, not at Catalina.

    2. We do NOT have a dozen fatalities at Catalina each year. In Los Angeles County (which includes Catalina), we had 3 diving fatalities in 2004, 5 in 2005, 5 in 2006, and 2 so far (including this one). Some of these were at Catalina, some were not. (These numbers are from my records in doing the accident analysis and gear examination for the LA County Coroner for scuba fatalties that happen with this jurisdiction. It's also important to remember that where the person was declared dead is what determines jurisdiction, not necessarily where the accident happened.)

    3. The three fatalities Dr. Bill referred to were actually in 2005, not 2006. One of them was not at all related to hunting lobster (it happened during the day during refresher training). My best recollection is that all three of them had underlying medical problems that contributed to their deaths while diving. In other words, it wasn't a case of running out of air, getting entagled, or things like that.

    4. Of the 15 fatalities in the years mentioned (2004 - present), 7 were diving while on commercial charter dive boats, 5 were diving from private vessels, and 3 were diving in the Avalon Underwater Park.

    We will again be discussing these types of cases at the 2008 Scuba Show when we (the LA County Coroner, the Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber, and myself) give our annual "Why Divers Die" panel. If you're interested in this type of information, I'd encourage you all to attend.

    - Ken
    Ken Kurtis
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    Owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
    Beverly Hills, CA
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    Thanks for clearing that up Ken.
    Dave

    To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.

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    Ken, appreciate the correction. We've used the figure of around a dozen to include fatalities from all boats and shore divers here. I believe the figure came from our Baywatch folks but would have to verify that. Do your figures include deaths transported to other jurisdictions (Orange County, Ventura County)? Just curious. I would assume that if the death occurred in LA County waters, that the LA County coroner would have jurisdiction.Glad to hear that the actual reported numbers are lower.

    Note I didn't say the three deaths were directly related to bug hunting, only that they occurred during opening week (and you're right, it was 2005... my bad). Many fatalities are related to underlying medical causes, but are (unfortunately) counted as dive-related if I'm not mistaken, and I'd include deaths due to dive related issues like OOA or entanglement to be legitimate (but not very intelligent) dive-related deaths.

    However, only three fatalities in the dive park from 2004 to the present doesn't seem right at all. I'm sure I've been there for more than three (unless my growing senility is playing tricks on me).
    Dr. Bill: I once had a 6-pack but now I have a full keg... well, maybe just a pony!
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    Quote Originally Posted by drbill View Post
    We've used the figure of around a dozen to include fatalities from all boats and shore divers here.
    The number I've generally used is 10-14 fatalties per year for all of Southern California, which is basically San Diego, Orange, Los Anegles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties. (To my knowledge, there's never been a scuba fatality in Riverside County so they're not in the mix.)

    Do your figures include deaths transported to other jurisdictions (Orange County, Ventura County)?
    The numbers I reported in my post are strictly LA County. But also understand that if a diver is diving off of Huntington Beach and has the accident there (Orange County), is transported to the Chamber and death is pronounced there (LA County), it will be considered LA County's jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is based on where death is pronounced, not where the accident occurs (although they can be the same).

    There's an interesting twist to this (and I just got off the phone with the the Coroner about this) if death is pronounced on a vessel at sea. Whatever the first port of call is for that vessel after death is pronounced determines jurisdiction. In this particular case, the boat was at Santa Barbara Island (Santa Barbara County) but was making way (after the accident) to Catalina. Death was pronounced on the way, the boat docked at Catalina, and the L.A. County Coroner has jurisdiction.

    Many fatalities are related to underlying medical causes, but are (unfortunately) counted as dive-related if I'm not mistaken
    The analogy used is that a man is walking by a swimming pool and has a heart attack. The heart attack doesn't immediately kill him but causes him to fall in the pool and he drowns. The cause of death is ruled as drowning since that's what actually killed him, even though the heart attack triggered the drowning event.

    In some (but not all) of the medically-related cases, you could almost say that they had a medical problem that would have killed them regardless but they coincidentally happened to be diving at the time. (One of the 2005 fatalities was actually that way.) On the other hand, since diving does produce stresses on the body, it may well be that the diving that triggers the heart attack that triggers the drowning. So it's not always crystal clear.

    However, only three fatalities in the dive park from 2004 to the present doesn't seem right at all.
    I missed one. It's actually 4. Since I started working with the LA Coroner over 4 years ago, there have been fatalities in the Park in June/2003, March/2005, May/2005, and February/2006.

    I'm sure I've been there for more than three (unless my growing senility is playing tricks on me).
    In all honesty, I don't think we've missed any. If you've got information to the contrary, e-mail me directly (kenkurtis@aol.com) rather than posting it here.

    Now, don't forget that if someone has an accident in the Park but they initially survive, and then they're transported home and subsequently die, if they die outside of LA County, we will not have jurisdiction. That actually happened a good ten years ago (I was teaching in the Park and was one of the rescuers) when a woman passed out underwater, was brought to the surface and treated at the Chamber, was in a coma, went home to Orange County, stayed in the coma for many months, and eventually died in Orange County.

    She (1) wouldn't be in LA County's jurisdicition at the time of death so we wouldn't do a report, (2) would be counted as part of the SoCal fatality tally but not necessarily LA County, and (3) would certainly be perceived to have died as a result of the Park accident and therefore would be considered a Park fatality who didn't show up in our LA County numbers. But in all honesty, I don't think there are very many cases like that.

    Hope that further clears things up.

    - Ken
    Ken Kurtis
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    Owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
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    Thanks Ken & Dr. Bill for the clarifications! So what we saw was from the SB Island accident then... So glad that it was slow that day at the UW Park... A new grp of OW students got in the water right after that & I am so glad they weren't there to see the transport. (Although, as a med prof myself, I know it is important for all of us to learn from these unfortunate incidents.)

    Ken, the "Why Divers Die" is one of my favorite sessions at the SShow so thanks for your contributions. I will, of course, be there next year as well & will pop over to say hello.

    Thanks to both of you for clearing up the facts.
    Sassy SG

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    Ken,

    Do we know what happened to the diver in the SB Island incident? Thx.
    Sassy SG

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    Yes, a diver did die on Friday @ 10 AM. We aren't sure why, but we think he had a medical problem since he had 1000 lbs of air and he was not entangled in kelp. We were at Santa Barbara Island, and we miss our friend.

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