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Divers killed inspecting intake pipes

Discussion in 'Public Safety Divers/Search and Rescue' started by Yotsie, Feb 8, 2007.

  1. Darnold9999

    Darnold9999 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Victoria BC Canada
    Newspaper reporting with glaring errors is not limited to scuba. If you have in depth knowledge about any non mainstream activity reading most newspaper reports is an exercise in frustration. To be fair however, how could you be a newspaper reporter AND have the in depth knowledge about every field you might encounter and with news being a who gets there first wins kind of game you don't have time to check.

    I pretty much take anything printed in a newspaper with a grain of salt as anytime I read an article about something I actually know something about - its wrong in some significant way. So how can I believe anything when the report is about something I don't know anything about.
  2. pipedope

    pipedope Great White

    It sounds like the only thing they had right was a safety diver on hand.

    This is a job for commercial, surface supplied gear with comunications gear and a team trained in working this kind of setup.

    There are so many ways to die in a setup like this that they won't fit in a simple forum post. There are only a few ways to do it safely and those don't include SCUBA.

    Dining inside pipes that are not flowing water is interesting enough. A strong flow makes it at least ten times more difficult and dangerous.
  3. BladesRobinson

    BladesRobinson ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    DWR divers didn't have safest standard equipment available
    Associated Press

    SACRAMENTO - The two state divers who died in the strong currents of the California Aqueduct relied upon recreational equipment that is considered unsafe for the conditions they faced, top industry and diving experts said Thursday.

    The mysterious deaths of Tim Crawford, 50, and Martin Alvarado, 44, on Wednesday shed light on a program at the state Department of Water Resources in which divers used scuba diving gear that experts said would have not have been used by trained professionals in the private sector.

    Crawford and Alvarado descended about 30 feet to inspect trash racks on the floor of the California Aqueduct, where big grates catch tumbleweeds, garbage and animal carcasses.

    "They were using scuba which is a No. 1 huge 'no' for clearing trash tracts," said Dan Vasey, director of the Marine Technical Department at Santa Barbara City College. "That goes against all the standards we train to."

    In hazardous circumstances, industry officials said diving standards require a safer method known as surface supply diving. That practice involves using sturdy helmets, rope and oxygen lines that anchor the divers to the shore and a monitoring station that gauges their whereabouts and physical conditions.

    Wednesday's dive was a routine assignment for experienced divers who were part of a team of 13 divers that several times a month navigate the state's rivers and aqueducts to do maintenance and repair work that keeps water flowing to Southern California.

    As is department practice, the men were tethered together and wore wet suits, masks, and air tanks on their backs. The current in that part of the 444-mile-long aqueduct at the Dos Amigos Pumping Plant is fast, the visibility is low and there are many obstacles that can trap a diver.

    The scuba gear was not sufficient, said Alan Jackson, a former dive team leader with 20 years of experience at the Imperial Irrigation District.

    "They screwed up, whoever was running the show," Jackson said.

    The Department of Water Resources declined repeated requests from The Associated Press on Thursday to talk with managers or members of the diving team about their choice of equipment and safety procedures.

    "They don't have any specific information about what happened yesterday," spokeswoman Sue Sims said. "We've got people in the middle of an investigation at the moment."

    At Dos Amigos, the channel is wider than a two-lane highway and snakes through fog-laden farmland on the outskirts of Los Banos. The pumping station is about 15 miles south of San Luis Reservoir, a familiar landmark along Highway 152 that links Interstate 5 to the Santa Cruz/Monterey area.

    On Wednesday, one of the six pumps at the plant was active about 50 feet from where the pair were working, but was normal and non-threatening, according to David Roose, an engineer with the State Water Project. Nevertheless, the water was still moving and cloudy.

    "Given the current, the amount of debris and the lack of visibility, that's probably an unsafe mode of diving," said Phil Newsum, executive director of the Houston-based Association of Diving Contractors International. "This was probably a very unnecessary loss."

    James Ainslie, a former member of the dive team and a friend of both men, said the department gave him and other dive team members whatever equipment they needed, although they didn't have the industry-preferred equipment.

    "We knew there was a risk involved. We always trusted each other and we took care of everything we had," said Ainslie, who was on the team for eight years but left last year. "I think it was just a tragic accident. I'm 100 percent sure they did the best they could for each other."

    In a 2001 story published in an internal department magazine, DWR People, Crawford acknowledged the dangers of his 20-year career of diving for the department. He described a time he and a fellow diver almost didn't make it out of the water while doing a field survey at a pumping plant.

    "We hit concrete which meant the canal section had been cleared of silt, but when we moved in another direction we ran into a 10-foot wall of silt," Crawford said. "It could have easily collapsed and buried us."

    Little was known Thursday about why the pair failed to come back to the surface after what was supposed to be a 20-minute task.

    At the shore, investigators reported that neither diver's wet suit or tank showed signs of damage, meaning it was unlikely they struggled or became trapped. And both men had air left in their tanks, said Tom Melden, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.

    Those early signs point to an equipment failure, contaminated water or air, experts said.

    The Merced County coroner's office was expected to perform an autopsy late Thursday or Friday, spokesman Paul Barile said.

    The aqueduct is part of the State Water Project, a system of 22 dams and reservoirs that funnels drinking water more than 400 miles to residents in Southern California. It feeds into municipal water systems and irrigation canals, and is also used to flood a nearby wildlife refuge, where thousands of migratory waterfowl gather each winter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the state Department of Water Resources.
  4. H2Andy

    H2Andy Blue Whale

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: NE Florida
  5. james croft

    james croft Solo Diver

    I will wait for the final report. But I bet the Department of Water Resources goes out of the diving business, or gets a lot of new equipment and training. That is how this kind of stuff usually ends up.
  6. BladesRobinson

    BladesRobinson ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter


    Divers' deaths still puzzle investigators

    By Victor A. Patton
    Last Updated: February 9, 2007, 02:35 AM PST

    Two state Department of Water Resources divers who died during an underwater inspection at an aqueduct pumping plant near Los Banos had oxygen left in their tanks and did not inflate safety vests that would have brought them to the surface, according to California Highway Patrol spokesman Tom Melden.
    Despite the new clues, Melden said Thursday investigators still do not know what killed the divers.

    When asked if the divers may have become trapped on the grate of one of the plant's active pumps, Melden would neither confirm nor deny that could have happened, saying the CHP is investigating all possible scenarios.

    Melden said the bodies of the divers were found 35 to 40 feet away from the grates of the pumps at the Dos Amigos Pumping Plant, 30 to 40 feet below the surface of the water.

    All dives conducted by the DWR have been suspended statewide until the investigation into the divers' deaths is complete, according to Sue Sims, DWR spokeswoman.

    An autopsy of the divers, identified as Tim Crawford, 50, of Seaside and Martin Alvarado, 44, of Coalinga, occurred Thursday, according to Paul Barile, spokesman for the Merced County Sheriff's Department. Results have not been released.

    Crawford and Alvarado died Wednesday during what was supposed to be a routine 20-minute inspection of submerged trash racks at the pumping plant, which services a section of the California Aqueduct -- a 444-mile canal that transports water from Northern to Southern California, Sims said.

    The trash racks serve as a filter to prevent rocks, logs and other debris from being sucked into the valves of the pumping plant, Sims said.

    Sims said both divers underwent a safety briefing prior to entering the water.

    Alvarado and Crawford entered the water at the pumping plant at 10:10 a.m., according to a timeline of the dive submitted by Melden.

    At 10:45 a.m., an individual who was waiting for the divers on a platform became concerned after he ceased seeing bubbles at the surface and notified his supervisor.

    A rescue diver then entered the water and located the two divers, who were unconscious, Melden said.

    DWR staff then called 911. Sheriff's deputies and a Riggs Ambulance Service ambulance responded at 11:52 a.m., according to the CHP timeline.

    Melden said the first diver was brought out of the water at 12:42 p.m. and the second diver was brought out of the water at 12:50 p.m.

    Asked about what time the rescue diver actually made visual contact with Alvarado and Crawford, Melden said that is still under investigation.

    "We would like to know that as well," Melden said.

    Melden also said the time the rescue diver entered the water and the amount of time it took to locate Alvarado and Crawford also is under investigation.

    Alvarado and Crawford were pronounced dead at Los Banos Memorial Hospital.

    The divers probably had about two to three feet of visibility in the water, according to Don Strickland, a DWR information officer.

    Melden said Alvarado and Crawford were wearing special diving vests that can be inflated during an emergency to bring them back to the surface.

    Their vests were not inflated and both divers were tethered together, Melden said.

    Melden said the CHP is investigating what kind of methods were employed by the divers to communicate with the DWR staff monitoring the dive.

    The water inside the aqueduct was not moving rapidly, Melden said, because only one of the plant's six pumps was operating during the dive.

    Alvarado and Crawford belonged to a team of 13 divers employed by the DWR, Sims said.

    All divers employed by the DWR undergo a weeklong diving training annually at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, Sims said.

    Sims said all DWR divers have job titles outside of their diving duties, since being a diver is voluntary.

    Alvarado and Crawford were both utility craftsmen with the DWR, which means they performed a variety of maintenance and utility tasks for the department, Sims said.

    Crawford had worked for the DWR for 18 years, while Alvarado had worked for DWR for six years.

    Alvarado and Crawford both were considered to be experienced divers, Sims said.

    More than 26 million Californians use water from the California Aqueduct, which begins near the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and ends near Riverside County, Sims said.

    Sims said the Dos Amigos Pumping Plant primarily pumps water through the aqueduct from snowmelt and other sources from Northern to Southern California.

    Melden said the CHP's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team is leading the investigation with assistance from the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  7. MontereyCADiver

    MontereyCADiver Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Salinas, CA, USA
    My deepest condolences to the victims' families. I trust the kind words from our diving community will offer support during their time of great loss.

  8. Cheekymonkey

    Cheekymonkey I'm a Goofy Monkey

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: In a state of confusion.
    Arghh it burns it burns
  9. Yotsie

    Yotsie Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Modesto, CA
    Talked to the team leader in the county this occurred. They were requested an hour and 45 mins after the accident. When they got on scene, CHP and Cal-OSHA were investigating, so this particular team was not deployed and their involvement was just merely showing up.

    Sounds like it's gonna be a mess for awhile.
  10. Jcsgt

    Jcsgt Photographer

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Oregon
    That's too bad. They owe those divers a thorough investigation. If for nothing else, to prevent it happening again.

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