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1 in 14 Cave divers die???????

Discussion in 'Cave Diving' started by octgal, Oct 16, 2005.

  1. amt

    amt Angel Fish


    I think 14 in 14 cave divers Die

    In fact I have yet to meet an immortal diver
  2. MikeFerrara

    MikeFerrara Instructor, Scuba

    I think most divers these days pretty much take the 130 ft (depth) thing to refer to END rather than actaul depth. An awful lot of cave diving goes on below 130 ft but most of us these days use helium.

    I heard talk of a "rule" being added concerning solo diving. I don't know if it has been but it's not one of the originals. Sheck Exley who wrote the Blue Print for Survival did lots of solo diving.

    If 1 in 14 cave divers died, I would be missing a lot of friends and I'm not. While cave divers do sometimes die on dives (as do recreational divers on guided dives at resorts) no one that I know personally has died on a cave dive. I know several who have been slightly bent and one who was severely bent. By contrast a local quarry full of recreational divers can look like a real blood bath with ambulances comming in and out pretty often. This isn't a plug for cave diving and if all the rec divers who are having all the accidents and near misses start diving in caves then the cave diving accident rate would go up I imagine.

    With cave diving becomming more and more mainstream and more and more commercialized I think we are starting to see more of the "stupid stuff" like The lady recently who's tanks were mixed with the isolator closed or the group in mexico that just went the wron way iuntil they ran out of gas on a semi guided dive. Bad or sloppy habits are dangerous enough on a shallow reef dive but a cave certainly isn't the place for them.
  3. Doc Intrepid

    Doc Intrepid Instructor, Scuba

    With great respect, this is no longer true. George has described the circumstances surrounding the death of Parker Turner, mentioned in your post. In the decade since Parker died, however, a number of trained, certified cave divers have perished. As only one example, Steve Berman mapped a great deal of Ginnie Springs (with colleagues), and his maps may still be purchased at Ginnie. Yet Steve Berman, who was a far more experienced cave diver than I will ever be, died in Ginnie through an inexplicable oversight. In another example, Mike Nast and Kent Hirsch died in a cave in the Yucatan in December, 2004. Between them they had some 300 cave dives. They were with a group, two groups actually, and through some inexplicable circumstance, all the divers in their group followed the lead diver who (apparently) took a wrong turn and the entire group followed.

    These deaths cannot be defined as freak accidents. They were 'lapses in situational awareness', perhaps, or 'inattention to detail', but they (and other examples) occurred to "trained cave divers following the rules" (assuming you're referring to Sheck's rules...)

    "1 in 14" is a ridiculous statistic, no doubt. But the fact remains that caves are extremely unforgiving environments, and very intolerant of oversight or neglect. If Steve Berman can die in a cave, it can happen to anyone.

  4. LavaSurfer

    LavaSurfer Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Maryland / Kona / Roatan
    Actually its 100% of cave divers die. As do all divers and non divers. The real question should be; Do 1 in 14 cave divers die underwater? :wink: Or maybe do cave divers live better than non-cave divers. Its not about the dying, its about how you live that really matters!
  5. Mike Nelson

    Mike Nelson Angel Fish

    I'm not a cave diver. In fact, I'm not even OW certified yet - that process starts tomorrow! :) Nevertheless, I always find these types of discussions fascinating.

    Despite my lack of experience in diving, I have engaged in quite a few high risk sports - alpine mountaineering, paragliding, rock climbing, back country skiing, high speed mountain biking. My observation is that everyone I've encountered in a sport that most people would classify as "risky" justify the risk to themselves with the old saw about "proper training" and "not pushing your limits." I think that's basically playing with statistics - whether you choose to believe it or not, the chances of getting chopped due to errors in flying a paraglider are increased over your getting run down by a beer truck on the way to the launch. Risk is determined by the chance of an error multiplied by the consequences of that error. You might play soccer a thousand games, have a near injury a dozen times, and sprain an ankle twice. At those odds, soccer would be pretty low risk. In a high risk sport you have many opportunities to make a bad decision, and the consequences of error are high. Place a shaky belay anchor on a run-out lead, your partner peels, you're both dead or seriously injured. Further, in high risk sportsk, it's more likely that it's your decisions that directly affect your outcomes, in statistics like traffic accidents, often you are a victim simply for being on the road. Hence, your skill in risk management becomes highly important.

    Take a look at a sport that's been around for awhile - say Himalayan mountain exploration. How many big name mountain explorers have survived over the years? Answer - not that many. Famed explorer after explorer have died in the mountains, often from "freak accidents" - but more likely from cascading bad decisions mixed with a bit of bad luck. Although these guys were experienced and followed the rules, their repeated exposure to a harsh and unforgiving environment eventually caught up with them.

    Same with deaths in paragliding/hang gliding. All beginners are drilled that as long as they follow the rules, they'll be perfectly safe. The only people who die are those who push the limits or break the rules. Problem is, conditions can change, along with the rules. It's not the beginners who die - it's the intermediates and experts, many of whom don't feel they are pushing the limits until the time of impact with an unyielding planet earth.

    I fully don't intend this to be a troll, or a flame of cave diving. Heck, I applaud those who push the boundaries of exploration in all things. But folks who engage in high risk avocations should accept that and practice their own personal risk management assessments on a daily, hourly, or even more frequent basis. Having PADI tell me that diving is safer than flying on a helicopter (or whatever the euphanism du jour is) is essentially meaningless. Statistics are great until you're caught in that fatal minority. If you're drinking the kool aid of a particular sport, don't rely on the other kool aid drinkers for assurances of safety - the risk is there, you just have to deal with it on your own terms.

    What it boils down to is your personal risk aversion factor: Do you derive enough pleasure from (insert sport here) to risk not coming home to your family? If so, cool. Get trained, follow the rules, but be aware that at some time in your career you may to have to make a decision, probably what seems like an insignificant one at the time, that may affect the outcome of your life. If you screw that up, folks are going to point to that decision and say that either you had insufficient training, or didn't follow the rules to justify their continued participation. But you might still be dead.
    SJT1961 and caffeinedreams like this.
  6. diverkristi

    diverkristi Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: WV

    Anyone who has taken a basic college level statistics class knows this one hard fast rule:

    Data can easily be manipulated. It just depends on the data that the person doing the research chooses to use.


    All cave divers who have basic certification that dive beyond their certification level vs cave divers that never dive beyond their level. Bet the stats are different for those 2 groups.

    Throw out data from divers over a certain age or under a certain age, and that further manipulates the data.

    You have to look at all criteria considered, and any motivation that the "reporter" might have.
  7. drbill

    drbill The Lorax for the Kelp Forest Scuba Legend

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Santa Catalina Island, CA
    I see someone beat me to the punch, although the serious issue is not a joking matter. 14 of 14 cave divers die (fortunately most of natural causes or non-dive related injuries). But then 14 of 14 non-tech recreational divers do as well. I'm just hoping I'll be the exception to the rule and dive on into eternity! Imagine the new gear they'll come out with! Maybe I should make reservations for DEMA 4,062 (I hear it may be held in Atlantis).
  8. Dive-aholic

    Dive-aholic Dive Shop

    # of Dives:
    Location: North Florida - Marianna area
    I haven't read the details on the deaths of Berman, Nast, and Hirsch in some time. And there's no disrespect meant. I've read a lot about Berman and have great respect for him, but from what I understand, even his death occurred because of oversight of a cave diving rule. It wasn't a blatant, intentional oversight. It was just something that happened. One of the rules (Yes, Sheck's, or what are now NACD and NSS-CDS rules) was overlooked and a death occurred. I'll try to find the analysis of Berman's incident and post more specific information.

    As for Nast and Hirsch - taking a wrong turn - that in itself says something. :11:
  9. karstdvr

    karstdvr Solo Diver

    # of Dives:
    Location: South GA
    For years we used to say cave fatalities were due to untrained cave divers entering a system,but that doesn't apply as much. We are seeing a trend toward trained cave diving deaths and some of those fall into two categories-medical related or exceeding experience level. I would say 1 in 14 easily too much. But,if you do the sport long enough you'll lose friends,and I've lost a few.
  10. Tegg

    Tegg NAUI Instructor

    # of Dives:
    Location: Central FL
    Read the numbers. Numbers cannot lie when looked at without any "slant".

    Due to the thousands of cave divers, and then those making an average of 50 dives per year, the death rate is quite low... I'd almost venture to say that you'd be statistically safer being a cave diver in a cave then driving on most roads in the US.

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