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Drowning on the surface

Discussion in 'Accidents and Incidents' started by Storker, Aug 19, 2013.


    BUDMANOK Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Broken Arrow,Ok
    I stay off the surface as much as possible. If I'm waiting to board the boat I stay under the surface 5' or so till it's my turn. same thing on descent it's off the boat down to a few feet hit the mooring ball/anchor chain and head down to 10-15 ft to wait for buddy.
    surface swim I'm on my back most of the time which seems to help me avoid getting swamped.

    not sure if any of this is SOP but it helps me.
    T.C. likes this.
  2. Steve_C

    Steve_C Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh, NC USA
    I think this reg issue is one of two bad carry overs from a lot of OW training. The first is they descend to the bottom. The second is when they ascend to the surface, the divers gather around the instructor, who removes his/her reg and talks to the students about what they are doing next. This is done both in the pool and in OW dives 1-4. Without realizing it, the instructors are training the students to remove their regs when they get to the surface since the instructor is a role model. I have had to tell a number of instabuddies to get the reg back in their mouth on the surface. Personally, other than to quickly tell somebody something that is essential, my reg stays in my mouth until I am sitting back on the boat or am on dry land.
  3. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    Here are two other possible scenarios that are related.

    1. Over the years we have heard of several cases in which divers have gone OOA during the dive, made it to the surface, been unable to fill their BCDs because their tanks were empty, and then drowned because they were unable to stay at the surface. There are, of course three things wrong with this, but it happened nonetheless:
    1. The diver should be able to inflate orally.
    2. The diver should be able to drop weights.
    3. If the diver is properly weighted, staying on the surface with an empty tank should be effortless. It should, in fact, be very difficult to descend.

    2. Recent research indicates that the most common non-health related cause of scuba fatalities begins with an OOA ascent, during which the diver does not exhale as taught in CESA training and suffers an embolism. If the diver is incapacitated at the surface by an embolism, then the diver could easily drown on the surface.
  4. Eric Sedletzky

    Eric Sedletzky Great White

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Santa Rosa, CA
    The other thing I wanted to throw out there, and this was an actual incident in San Diego California where a buddy team was doing a beach dive. The surf came up while they were doing their dive so getting back in was tricky.
    They got separated in the surf zone because of the turbid water. One buddy made it to the beach unscathed and the other buddy disappeared less than 50 feet from shore in 10 feet of water.
    When they found the diver they had discovered that his LP inflator had broken off at the BC letting all the air out. It was also determined that he was wearing a rediculous amount of weight so when the hose broke off he dropped like a rock.
    Combined with the surf and turmoil he panicked, couldn't find his weights to dump, couldn't find a reg to breath off, and drowned.

    SPARKMEL Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Hi OZ, Firstly well done to you for having the foresight and knowledge to spot a problem and help. As you said a simple thing like inflating your bcd can save a life. I recently read the whole padi mauual , watched the dvd's and became certified. I studied extremly hard and understood excatly what i was reading. I sat my exam and got 100 % passmark. This gave me a great base knowledge for diving. We recently done a shore dive in spain where conditions were good. The beach was shared with other divers. To say i was shocked was an underststement. Entering the water with no reg in mouth, she fell over and began to splutter. My instructor made us look at her and tell him what was wrong. That same day another diver done the same thing surfaced and began to flap, bcd not inflated. Before we entered the water our instructor talked us through the entry " keep reg in mouth incase you fall " also when you surface inflate bdc. this quote is etched in my brain for life !!!!! reading about it is one thing as a new diver seeing an experienced diver do it is another. My 11 year old took his reg out of his mouth but was smartly told to put it back in. I hope that if this happens to me that i would have the foresight to act as you did. on the surface get boyant !!!
  6. DevonDiver

    DevonDiver N/A

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Subic Bay, Philippines
    I remember reading a DAN article some years back that claimed that, in a large percentage of scuba diving fatalities, the victim successfully reached the surface before subsequently sinking and drowning.

    Potential of causes for that might be:

    • Pre-existing medical conditions.
    • Acute Panic Reaction, leading to the diver failing to attain positive buoyancy on the surface.
    • Disablement, injury or other physical incapacity, leading to the diver failing to attain positive buoyancy on the surface.
    • Equipment problems, leading to the diver failing to attain positive buoyancy on the surface.
    • Equipment unfamiliarity, leading to the diver failing to attain positive buoyancy on the surface.
    • Weak training, leading to the diver failing to attain positive buoyancy on the surface.
    Some noticed a trend in that....
  7. tstormdiver

    tstormdiver Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Kentucky
    When I dove in the Galapagos, at Wolf Island, I got caught in a vicious up current. It caught my drysuit like a sail (everyone else wore wetsuits of semi dry suits). The current sent me from 70 ft to about 40 ft, where I latched onto a rock & desperately tried to get back down to my group. When the rock I was clinging to broke off, the current took me very quickly from 40 ft to the surface, right next to the cliffs of the island. Needless to say, I was a tad freaked out. I surfaced in 12 ft seas & was tossed around violently. I was breathing very heavy from excitement & trying to get back down at 40 ft. The urge to discard my regulator was overwhelming. In those seas, I knew better,... but the urge was there. I kept the reg in & proceeded to swim away from the island cliffs & to deploy my flag I was carrying, for pick- up. I can see where, if the diver was overly excited &/ or breathing heavily, the urge to remove equipment can overcome the need for it to stay in place to protect the airway.
    John C. Ratliff and tracydr like this.
  8. bada3003

    bada3003 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Indiana
    Agree with that. Although I'm a newbie scuba diver, have done a lot of ocean snorkeling under non-calm conditions, so am used to timing breathing (a form of opportunistic breathing) to avoid waves splashing in my face. But even then, occasionally you can gulp sea water which isn't pleasant, but you don't panic when used to it. For someone not used to rough water conditions, I can easily imagining drowning on the surface, especially when conditions dictate staying submerged a few seconds before gulping air at the next opportune moment.

    ---------- Post added August 20th, 2013 at 10:05 AM ----------

    Interesting point. Certainly agrees with my own observations during OW, AOW, and subsequent dives. In the midwest where quarry diving seems popular, surface drifting to the dive location (buoy) with regulator out (to conserve tank air), then drifting back on the surface seems to be common practice. Not sure for diving in choppy sea/lake waters to/from boat or shore this is best practice. Could be wrong.
  9. themagni

    themagni Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Canada's Pacific Southwest, BC
    That reminds me of my first dive with my new suit...

    My buddy and I ascended at the breakwater at Ogden Point, and there was some chop. Not bad, you know how it is. When we got onto the breakwater to walk back, we both got knocked flat by a wave. Every time I tried to get up, I got knocked back down again. I was just repeatedly gooned onto my back and I was helplessly turtled.

    This went on for about a minute. My suit was rubbing on the barnacles, there was kelp everywhere, I could not stand up. I'm a reasonably strong guy, but there was jack all I could but ride it out.

    Lucky for me, I had my reg in my mouth the whole time because you told me to in one of your earlier posts. If I'd been trying to breathe atmospheric, I'd have been in a totally different situation.

    We laughed about it in the parking lot. We figure it was the wash from a passing cargo ship or something.

    Anyway, back on topic: there was a story here a few years back about a diver from Oregon who went OOG, got to the surface, panicked, floundered, and drowned. Ever since then, I've orally inflated my BC at the end of every dive.

    Every dive.

    Yeah, I get some water in my mouth and it was awkward as hell at first, but now it's as easy as you can imagine. It's worth a lot to have the confidence in knowing that you CAN get +++ buoyant and you're okay with little seawater in your mouth.

    ---------- Post added August 20th, 2013 at 04:10 PM ----------

    I still remember my OW instructor: "If you ever find yourself wondering if you should pitch your weights, pitch your weights. Then come find me and I'll buy you new weights."
    imkeshav, John C. Ratliff and tracydr like this.
  10. Storker

    Storker ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: close to a Hell which occasionally freezes over
    In Norway, the Norwegian Diving Association will refund you the cost of your weights if you're a member of a club associated with them. You only have to write a report of the incident and submit a receipt for your new weights, and the diving must have happened in one of the Nordic countries, following the safety guidelines of your club.

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