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Diver death in Arkansas

Discussion in 'Accidents and Incidents' started by TwoBitTxn, Apr 30, 2002.

  1. TwoBitTxn

    TwoBitTxn Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: North Texas
    This came from the Dallas Morning news Monday. The story is full of problems and to me raises more questions than answers.

    A woman making her first scuba diver outside a swimming pool drowned in Beaver Lake. The water temp was 62*F and she was found with a half a tank of air. Her boyfriend is quoted as saying she may have become tangled in some underwater branches. He stated teh water was really murky and he didn't think they should have been there. The class was from Tulsa Ok.

    My questions:

    Where was the dive master?
    Where was her buddy?
    Were they doing course work or were they pleasure diving?

    Condolances to the family and friends.....

  2. DivingGal

    DivingGal Divemaster

    I get the same questions when I read you excerpt. It's always sad to loose one of our own, no matter what the circumstances.
  3. O-ring

    O-ring Solo Diver

    Beaver Lake: Officials seek answers in scuba diving death
    GARFIELD -- Sri Lestari's jobs in the oil industry took her from her homeland of Jakarta, Indonesia, to Scotland, Egypt and Australia. She had been snorkeling in the Bahamas, whitewater rafting in Colorado and hiking on the Ozark Highlands Trail.

    The Tulsa engineer's latest adventure, scuba diving, turned tragic Saturday when she drowned during a class in the Indian Bow area of Beaver Lake.

    Benton County sheriff's deputies and officials with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, which certified the diving school, are investigating the accident.

    Lestari's boyfriend, Jonathan Stewart, still doesn't know exactly what happened, but he assigns some of the blame to cold, murky water and poor supervision by her instructors with Poseidon Adventures in Tulsa.

    Poseidon owner Randy Piper referred questions about the accident to the diving instructor's association. Representatives of the association didn't return calls Monday.

    Piper said it was his first fatal accident in the 20 years he's run a diving school.

    "This was a terrible, unfortunate circumstance," he said. "The only way to avoid it is to hold somebody's hand."

    Members of the Benton County dive team found Lestari, 33, in about 35 feet of water on Saturday afternoon. She had been in the water for about an hour, police said.

    Her body was sent to the state Crime Laboratory for an autopsy. Her scuba equipment also will be tested at the Crime Laboratory, Brewster said.

    Scuba diving drownings are rare, especially during training courses, said Joel Dobenbarger, a researcher with the Divers Action Network, a Durham, N.C., nonprofit organization that collects data on diving accidents.

    Eighty to 100 people die in scuba accidents each year, he said. Of those, only a half-dozen die during certification courses, he said. Most deaths occur when tanks run out of air, he said.

    Benton County's last scuba diving death was about seven years ago, Brewster said. He didn't recall whether it involved a class.

    They had spent eight hours diving in a pool and had completed eight hours of classwork as part of the course. Saturday was their first day of open-water diving in a lake. They would have finished the course Sunday.

    Stewart said he had misgivings about the class. The water was murky, with visibility of 9 to 10 feet, and chilly at 62 degrees. One of the 14 students refused to get back in the water after the first dive, he said. Another student remarked that she couldn't see any of the instructor's underwater signals.

    Stewart said he remembers telling the student, " 'Yeah, we're not getting anything out of this, and in fact it might even be dangerous.'

    "I don't think anyone wanted to be out there. No one seemed to be enjoying it."

    Stewart said he and Lestari became tangled in branches at the bottom of the lake. He gave her a thumbs up signal, meaning that they should surface. She gave the same signal, meaning she understood, he said.

    When Stewart surfaced, he said, he couldn't find Lestari. No instructors were in sight, so he had to search for about five minutes to tell one of them what had happened.

    Teri Johnson, who owns Island Quest dive shop in Tulsa, said she's puzzled by the accident. The mouthpiece of a regulator doesn't fall out easily, and students are trained early in diving courses to put it back in when it does. Divers also have a backup regulator that uses a separate hose, she said.

    It's easy to become disoriented in murky water, but divers are trained to follow their bubbles to the surface, she said. When divers become separated, they're trained to look for each other for one minute, then surface, she said.

    "It's horrible," Johnson said. "This doesn't happen every day."

    Professional Association of Diving Instructors guidelines call for one instructor and two assistant instructors to be present during a dive with 12 students, Johnson said. The Poseidon group had 14 students, an instructor, and an assistant instructor, Stewart said.

    Johnson said instructors with her school usually keep an eye -- and often a hand -- on their students during each dive. The instructors only take one or two students at a time, depending on the water' visibility, she said.

    "We definitely invade their personal space," she said. "We're never too far away."

    But she added, "There's no requirement that says you have to do that."

    1. IMHO, looks like a bad situation to be holding OW class certification dives...low vis, students uneasy about the dive, etc...recipe for disaster

    2. Seems like a brand-new, not highly-trained, OW student would be too task loaded, stressed-out, and now panicked by entanglement to be able to recover her reg or switch to her backup in that type of scenario...probably explains the half empty tanks - I bet reg was found out of mouth..

    3. Buddy should have stuck around.

    4. Where the hell were the instructor(s)?
  4. devilfish

    devilfish Instructor, Scuba

    Turns my stomach every time I hear something like that.
    Besides, who are they kidding, 14 students, one instructor, and he is taking only one or two students at a time. Yeah right. Even if he took two at a time, that's 7 dives for the instructor to get done with one check out dive. That's 14 dives for the two dives in one day. On the average 20-30 min each trip, that's 7 hours underwater for the instructor. Add to that time to take the students our, bc check, adjustments, etc, OK. I don't believe it.
    It doesn't add up. Someone's loved one died in pursuit of a hobby. Happens every weekend somewhere all the time. It's a shame.
  5. MikeFerrara

    MikeFerrara Instructor, Scuba

    14 students is too many in 100 ft vis, IMO. With one DM, myself and six students I am maxed out with 20-30 foot vis. I hate to say it but I see classes being conducted like this often. We need to enforce the standards. Students need to be aware of the standards and speak up when things don't look right. Speaking for myself I will take action when I see instructors who can't dive commiting blatent standards violations. Even when you operate within standards and use good sense in reducing student to instructor ratios due to conditions things can happen quickly. In order to get an idea of how irrisponsible it is to have a large group in low vis imagine..... PADI standards dictate OW dive one is just a tour and each student must be under the direct supervision of the instructor. During the tour portion of dives 2 - 4 a DM or AI can lead the tour. With 14 in the water and 10 foot vis there is no way to position yourself so you can see let alone supervise the whole group. I hope the paper has the facts wrong as the papers tend to do but I see enough of this stuff to believe it.
  6. Rick Murchison

    Rick Murchison Trusty Shellback Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Gulf of Mexico
    Rule number one post accident - "DO NOT TALK TO THE PRESS!"
    If he really said this, he's toast!
    Trial Lawyer "Mr. Piper, if the only way to avoid it is to hold somebody's hand, who was assigned to hold the deceased's hand?... No one? Why not? You've already said it was the only way to avoid a mishap, and yet you took no steps to provide that only way..."
    - and so forth -
    Yep... he's toast.
    Too bad.
  7. ScubyDoo

    ScubyDoo Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
    I too heard this terrible news. It hits a little close to home for me because I also was doing AOW certification dives in another lake in Arkansas this past weekend. Saturday was not an exceptional day......cloudy, light rain, and chilly, but it was not bad enough to call a dive. We dove Lake Ouachita which is in central Arkansas, while Beaver Lake (where the accident ocurred) is in NW Arkansas. I think the weather up there was very similar as its only about a 3 hour drive away.

    I agree with earlier posts. It sounds like her buddy (also her boyfriend) failed to stay with her. During my dives this weekend I never lost sight of my buddy (vis was 15-20ft)

    Where were the instructors? On OW swim arounds, the instructor usually leads the students who are followed by dive masters. Why didnt the dive masters recognize the situation?

    I was fortunate in that during my AOW dives, there was also a class doing thier specialty in Rescue Diving. 5 of those in the class were EMT's with the Conway Fire Department. They actually practiced a rescue on Sunday that exactly matches what happened at Beaver Lake.

    Our excursion was made up of:

    4 AOW Students (including yours truly)
    10 Rescue Diver students (including 4 EMT's)
    3 Instructors
    4 Divemasters

    During my "deep" dive we had 4 students, 2 instructors, and 2 divemasters.........someone to watch each student personally!

    My condolences to the family.
  8. devilfish

    devilfish Instructor, Scuba

    " Where were the instructors? On OW swim arounds, the instructor usually leads the students who are followed by dive masters. Why didnt the dive masters recognize the situation?"

    That scenario happens too often. Instructor swims into abyss and hope the students will follow. Sure, DM closes the door, but in case of a problem the Instructor will not see it. What is the DM suposed to do, leave the students behind and chase down the Instructor to tell him/her?
    Standards are clear, "direct supervision". I swim you follow is not direct supervision! Direct supervision is 100% visual and within arms reach all the time, not for a blink of an eye ever. Amazing how the standards are twisted.
  9. dvleemin

    dvleemin Manta Ray

    Is that ever aweful. I can't believe her buddy left her though. Did he not know that you don't just give the thumbs up and race to the surface? How could he not be watching her, especially during the course? Did he panic? Ever in 10' vis its not difficult to see your buddy when's she 5' in front of you. Some of the most basic training involves being with your buddy.

  10. O-ring

    O-ring Solo Diver

    Remember, he was an OW student too and, although "trained" in buddy diving, had nowhere near the experience to be responsible for another life underwater. Besides, one has to question the quality of his training at this point given the description in the media account of the operation that was running the show.

    I agree with you 100%, but I think most of the blame lies in the operation running their OW cert dives like this. A dive professional should have been there for the assist. IMHO, during an OW cert dive it should never take 5 minutes to find an instructor/asst. instructor/DM.

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