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Thread: Three divers lose their lives at Chac Mool in Riviera Maya. 2 Brazillian, 1 Spaniard

 


  1. #141
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    The link itself was not off topic, and in any case there was no moderation of the link. It is the ensuing discussion about the utility of posting links to graphic photos that is off topic. This discussion--the morality, cultural acceptability, reality check factor, "educational" value, etc., etc., etc.--related to publishing such images has nothing whatever to do with the causes of the incident, and therefore, perhaps merits a thread of its own since it is engendering so much interest. I don't say this wearing my mod hat, of course, since I can't moderate in this thread anyway, but that's my opinion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by divinglife View Post
    Guides here have to be a minimum of Divemaster AND Full-Cave certified.
    To do what exactly? Lead any and all cenote tours? What about the cenotes that don't ask for the guide's cert as quoted here:

    Google Translate

    Candy Lopez, diver and guide groundwater for six years, said there are only two cenotes (Chikinha and Garden of Eden) where caregivers or ask for site supervisors who intend to dive to show credentials that attest to such activity.In most of the cenotes of fate is not so.
    So you meant to say they are "supposed" to be certified but not all of them are and those who are not can easily take tourists to cenotes that do not ask for their credentials correct? Or were you not aware of this practice?
    Guides do "tattle" on each other as well (honestly if you have shelled out all the money to follow all the guidelines and keep this sport safe and joe-shmoe comes along and wings it, I would "tattle" too).
    What exactly are they tattling about? Others not being properly certified? Taking divers beyond safety limits?
    The cenotes have quite strict set standards. The rules are clear, are written on boards at many cenotes and are in all the books I've seen about the cenotes.
    It is now clear to me that after reading between the lines of all the news stories and from comments of other posters in this thread that not only are guides who are not certified exploiting some of the cenotes but even those who are certified sometimes break the rules.
    There has been a general meeting of local cave guides and talks have begun to see what kind of changes can be made to make this sport even safer. I think people should just keep in mind that this was an abnormality and not a fault in the system. In the end, most people are coming to the conclusion that a series of very poor decisions led to this tragic outcome.
    I originally thought the rescue diver was being a bit critical in his conclusions but now I am convinced they all entered that area voluntarily sadly. It is really too bad the 2 tourists did not stop at that sign and refuse to go past it. I would suggest listing the names of the deceased and the date and location of the accident at the entrance to every cenote with a warning to all who wish to enter.
    BTW thanks for your info and there is at least one other poster from Playa that has posted in this thread to better explain some things.

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    I love the folks, some of whom I'm sure have never seen a cenote, nattering about how unsafe the cenote tours are. I've been on many of these tours and they are much safer than most of the open water dives in places like Cozumel. Let’s introduce some reality about the safety of cenote tours.

    These caverns are HUGE, with many large openings and often with airspaces above your head. If you get into trouble, you are rarely if ever further than 100' of breathable air and most time only about 30' deep.

    The water in these caverns is crystal clear (+300' vis) and in most places the cavern is so large that it would be impossible to silt it out to the point that you could swim 20' in any direction and be free of it. In fact, I've seen a fat guy with a camera rolling in the silt on the bottom of a cenote and all he did was annoy the guides who's tours followed. There have been so many visitors to these caverns that any silt that was on the walls or ceiling has long ago dropped to the bottom. Nobody in the cavern zone is going to get silted out and accidentally swim into the cave zone and if they had, the whole cenote would have been silted out.

    The halocline in Chac Mool is a little freaky when you first encounter it, but move up, down, left or right and you can get out of the blurry water easily. It's also most noticeable in a part of Chac Mool where you are always right on the line and no-where near the death signs marking the entrance to the cave zone. If anything you're going to follow the light of the guide in front of you, and there is no way they are going to swim 100' from there and past the death signs by mistake.

    How many pictures of the death signs have you seen on the internet. Did any look blurry or silted out. Did any look like, hey I could just swim past this and not even know it?

    You can see natural light from any part of the cavern tour line and from any of the places just off the cavern line where I have been taken.

    The guides have to take you off the line for short distances as times. On a busy day, there can be 4 or 5 tours in the larger cenotes at one time. The cavern line also doesn't start until about 30' from the open water at the enterance. Again, so many visitors have kicked away the silt in these areas that it's as safe as any swimming pool.

    Now for some numbers.

    Suppose 60 divers go on cenote tours per day. (that is a very conservative estimate because I've seen more than 10 vans in the Chac Mool parking lot at one time and there are probably the same number in Dos Ojos and as many again in the other 5 or so popular cenotes) Suppose they only dive 6 days per week (again conservative) and so 310 days per year.

    60 X 310 = 18,600 divers touring cenotes last year.

    I've been diving cenotes for 12 years and so 18,600 X 12 = 223,200 cenote tours. Ok, so it really only got popular in the last 6 or so years, so if you even half that figure, a VERY conservative estimate is that over 100,000 divers have been on these tours and this is the FIRST fatal accident. Oh, and I forgot to mention that you normally do two dives, so that's really more way more than 200,000 actual cenote dives by customers without an accident.

    The cause of this accident is not a safety issue with cavern diving in a cenote. Cavern diving in a cenote is a safe an unique experience. This accident was caused by a professional guide breaking several major rules and leading unqualified and improperly equipped divers into a cave and then getting confused. God only knows what happened in the cave, but if the guide hadn't taken them there, nobody would have died. If the customers had even refused to go past the death sign, they wouldn't have died.
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    Quote Originally Posted by WSOPFAN View Post
    So you meant to say they are "supposed" to be certified but not all of them are and those who are not can easily take tourists to cenotes that do not ask for their credentials correct? Or were you not aware of this practice?
    I did not know ANY land owners were asking for any credentials. I was surprised to learn that Chikinha and Garden of Eden are asking. When I dive in the Pacific it is only the dive shop that asks, the same in the Caribbean. And so I did not think it was odd that it is only the dive shop that asks about my credentials when I dive a cenote (with my qualified Cave Guide).

    In the case of the Caribbean in Mexico, we are diving in Federal property. Providing our credentials to the Mexican government and getting them approved before a dive would be a major hassle and expense. And I'm not sure it would make diving any safer.

    I hope things don't move in that direction, in that it becomes a requirement to get a review and approval of dive credentials from the land owner prior to a dive. What an individual land owner may decide to require is that land owners business. I think if I was a land owner with a cenote, I'd keep a list of approved guides.

    ---------- Post added April 26th, 2012 at 12:24 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by darkstar View Post
    I love the folks, some of whom I'm sure have never seen a cenote, nattering about how unsafe the cenote tours are. I've been on many of these tours and they are much safer than most of the open water dives in places like Cozumel.
    I agree 100%. Most of my diving is from the mainland, sea dives and cenote dives. When I go over to Cozumel I feel like I have to be extra vigilant as all the "weird" stuff I have seen has been on that side.
    divinglife and Moonglow like this.

  5. #145
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    The APSA rules for guides were developed by, IIRC, a group of Safety Officers in the region. They are purely voluntary. I would not be surprised to find out that Eden actually checks people, because that's the only site I know where you can only dive if you are approved and on a list.

    The rules are voluntary, and there is money to be made in running tours. As I have said any number of times, I have seen tours being run that were NOT in accord with the rules. This is part of the reason I don't think cenote tours are for brand new OW divers, and that I advise people to be familiar with the rules and ask whether the shop/operator abides by them. When the rules are followed, it's clear that these tours are really quite safe -- recognizing, of course, that diving itself is never a "safe" activity.
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  6. #146
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    Moderator's Comments:
    Posts discussing whether or not graphic images associated with diving accidents should be included or excluded with accident reports have been moved to the following thread: Should graphic photos be included in reports about dive accidents? where members are welcome to continue that discussion. Included in this move was the mod post indicating that the deletion of the link to the images was not made at the request of ScubaBoard moderators. Please remember that this Accidents and Incidents forum has strict rules about staying on topic to the discussion at hand relating to the causes behind the death of 3 divers.
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  7. #147
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    Quote Originally Posted by darkstar View Post
    ...This accident was caused by a professional guide breaking several major rules and leading unqualified and improperly equipped divers into a cave and then getting confused. God only knows what happened in the cave, but if the guide hadn't taken them there, nobody would have died. If the customers had even refused to go past the death sign, they wouldn't have died.
    bold added

    A good post all around. I wonder about the last sentence though. While it is true, we can't be sure the customers went unwillingly or unknowingly. Many guides who push limits do so because it's what the customers want, it gets better tips, makes their experience stand out from others, etc. They probably don't insist that people enter the cave zone if they didn't really want to. All three passed the "death" sign and continued on for whatever reason. Perhaps it's semantics, but the word "refused" IMHO, implies that it was entirely the guide's idea, and we don't know that. He was intended to be the gatekeeper, however.
    Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten. B.F. Skinner

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    Quote Originally Posted by JamesK View Post
    I have tried to stay out of this thread, because this practice REALLY pisses me off. I think even the cavern tours, the way they are supposed to be done, are not a good idea. Last time I was in Mexico we saw a group of divers coming out past a warning sign in one of the caves. Sickens me.
    Several years (perhaps 4 or 5) ago while on a flight to Coz I struck up a conversation with a man and wife who were on their way to Coz for a few days and then on to the mainland where they planned on doing some "cave diving". I commented, "oh, so you're both cave certified"? I was shocked when the husband replied that they were not but that they had dived caves many times in the past with a particular guide that they had great faith and trust in! I questioned them farther to make sure they weren't simply reffering to "cavern diving". "Oh no. We go way back in the caves!"

    I was appalled to say the least! They said they had done this for many years with him and had some great videos they had done of the cave systems they had visited! Did they wear doubles? "No, but the guide does. And he is very good!... We have full confidence in him."

    Really?!?! They indicated that they and other friends of their's did this sort of thing often!

    So, just from that encounter, I have to assume that this practice goes on far more than it should.
    Don't mess with old guys... Age and skill will always overcome youth and treachery! BS and brilliance only come with age and experience.

  10. #150
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    Here is a video-magazine-type report out of Brazil: Fantástico - Todos os programas - NOTÍCIAS - Casal afogado no México se desviou da trilha permitida no mergulho

    Here's my translation of the text. Most of the text is a transcription of the narration in the video. Even if you don't understand Portuguese, it's interesting to see the part of the video where the reporter goes into the cavern with the two recovery divers and a videographer.

    "They planned to go to a city in Mexico where there are pyramids--I forget the name of the place. Then we didn't hear from them again," says José's father.

    "I told my son: 'Marcelo, tell your sister to contact us, because she hasn't been in touch for so long,'" says Renata's mother.

    Renata Quirino, MD. Jose Neto Brugnaro, engineer. Playa del Carmen, Mexican paradise which lends itself to romance and diving. That was José and Renata's destination.

    "Mexican Adventure" is the name of the hotel where the couple began their tour. They hired a dive guide, Ismael Garcia Manzanares. He was a temporary employee of a shop, which was where they rented equipment.

    They provided their dive experience--between 50 and 55 dives. This time, José and Renata chose a different kind of dive. The Yucatan Peninsula, on the Gulf of Mexico, lies over several subterreanean rivers.

    There are some access points, called "cenotes," leading to these underground rivers. The cenotes allow light to penetrate the water, and, according to the Maya, who settled there first, they lead to another world. For tourists a centote is a gateway for an excursion in fresh, clear water.

    Evening of April 19: José and Renata go for their last dive of the day. Location: Chac Mool cenote. They entered the water at 16h.

    "They should have been back here at 17.30 says Álvaro Alamada, director of the dive shop. At 18:10 I asked an employee to go to the cenote. Divers said that they were on their way back," But no one came. And so Alvaro Alamada went personally to the cenote.

    "The first thing I saw was their car. I thought they might be doing a night walk in the jungle; I hoped everything was okay. When I looked inside the car, though, I could see that the diving gear was gone," says Alvaro.

    They were still in the water. So the rescue service was activated. After four dives the bodies were found.

    Since that time Chac Mool has been closed to the public. But the Fantastico film crew got permission to enter. Before making the fateful dive, the Brazilians descended a set of steps leading to the cave of Chac Mool. Leading our dive is Fernando Prieto, the instructor who recovered the bodies.

    "The most important rule is to stay next to the line," says the instructor.

    It's 16.30; almost the same time of day that the Brazilian couple entered the cavern. And into the cenote go Rodrigo Bocardi our reporter, his cameraman Alberto Frisoni and two guides, two diving instructors Luiz and Fernando, each with more than 2000 dives here.

    Dusk falls. But the visibility isn't affected. The dive lights help. And in their beam we very clearly see the yellow guide line. Within minutes we are close to one another cave entrance. The sun shining in makes it look like a painting.

    So far, the dive has been uneventful. There is no current. Sometimes the water is brackish, but it doesn't make it hard to see. Amid the rocks are stalactites. These are the main attraction of this dive. In some places the yellow line indicates an abrupt change of direction. The route takes you past stunning places. And some narrow ones.

    Throughout most of the dive you see the daylight coming from some direction. And every 60 meters, there is always an exit. Because of these characteristics, there is no requirement for special training for divers to visit the cavern.

    After forty minutes when our air cylinders are just half full, we see a large tunnel. The guide warns us: Don't go there. Follow the yellow line. The Brazilian couple and Spanish guide did not follow the yellow line.

    They had dived in a circle. After completing the circuit around the cavern, they should have exited at the same place they entered, but instead they proceded into a cave on the left and were lost.

    To be sure we can't know why the Brazilians took that wrong path. Chac Mool has been open to tourists for 15 years. Forty divers a day visit it. No one had died there before this.

    It is without doubt the yellow line that keeps you safe. It leads to the exit of the cavern. At certain points within the cavern, there in the darkness, it would be easy to get lost if some of the line were removed. "You must not head off to see some lovely area and leave the line," affirms the instructor.

    And why did Renata, José and the guide leave the line? The only certainty is that the guide tried to give air to Renata. Fernando knows this because of the position in which the hose of the guide's alternate was found.

    "We will never know what happened. Perhaps it was curiousity; perhaps audacity," says the instructor. The investigation is not yet complete. But according to officials, it was an accident. The two families were given the newsat the company where José worked.

    "They went to the warehouse to talk with my husband. Afterwards, he held me and said 'we no longer have our daughter,' "recalls Renata's mother.

    The company is taking care of the formalities for the release of the bodies, which remain at the morgue in Playa del Carmen, along with the bag that the couple left the car. Inside, their camera ... and their last photos.

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