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Instructor sentenced after diver's death

Discussion in 'Scuba Related Court Cases' started by European, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. kafkaland

    kafkaland Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Saline, Michigan

    I'm not a dive professional, but a diver who hires a professional on occasion, and my experience has been different. For instance, I recently hired an experienced instructor for a day to work on skills. In this case, I wanted to do a lost line drill (which I hadn't done since full cave), learn line repair (which I never formally learned), and work on some bottle handling (I had a new deco bottle / harness combination and wanted to speed up the process of getting this trimmed out). The instructor had me sign his usual training release, but there was no curriculum to follow. I would assume, though, that for the individual skills the rules of his agency applied. I found that doing this was a good way to spend a day and some money - I think it made me a safer diver. What would have been the alternative? Practicing lost line with a buddy? It is, when conducted realistically, one of the more dangerous drills for student and instructor alike, and I was glad to have an experienced cave instructor doing it with me. And line repair - should I have to look for some buddy who teaches me what he thinks he knows, instead of an instructor who can professionally teach that skill? The deco bottle I could have figured on my own, though, with a bit of trial and error. So I believe there is value in teaching outside of formal courses, and I hope instructors will continue to be available for this.
  2. KevinNM

    KevinNM DIR Practitioner

    I’ve done that kind of thing too.
  3. clownfishsydney

    clownfishsydney Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Sydney Australia
    As the person most responsible for the dive related defence of Gabe Watson at his murder trial, my comments are as follows:
    1. As novice divers they did not know any better, so they hired a professional to guide/look after them.
    2. To take divers into a lake in 5C water in 5 mm wetsuits is incomprehensible.
    3. The apparent overweighting by the instructor or shop is incomprehensible.
    4. To give divers 10 litre tanks to do what was obviously planned (by the instructor) as a deep (more than 20 metres) dive in very cold water, was also incomprehensible. I would not do such a dive in warm water with that size tank even though my air consumption is better than 95% of divers.
    5. To take them to 30 metres when they only had 25 dives is simply mind blowing.
    6. To take them to 30 metres considering all the above is even worse.
    7. I can understand dumping his air after the emergency ascent is understandable.
    8. Leaving the diver at depth after he descended again is fully understandable.
    All that said, it seems to me the shop got off totally and the instructor very lightly. I would have been a lot more harsh if I was the judge.
    akdoublesdvr and BurhanMuntasser like this.
  4. leadduck

    leadduck Nassau Grouper

    This was only the criminal case against the instructor. The money goes to the state. It's not much because the defendant was a first time offender with almost no income. Regarding the German Scandinavian day-fine system as opposed to Australia's see Bartl, Benedict --- "The 'Day' Fine - Improving Equality Before the Law in Australian Sentencing" [2012] UWSLawRw 4; (2012) 16(1) University of Western Sydney Law Review 48 .

    A civil court case seeking higher damages may follow and include the shop.
    kafkaland and Schwob like this.
  5. Timbro

    Timbro Master Instructor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Adelaide, Australia
    I totally agree. The 2 divers handed over money and had a reasonable expectation that the dive pro they paid for would safely guide them through unfamiliar conditions. Yes, the divers were ultimately responsible for their gas management, buoyancy and NDL. However, they should have expected their guide to keep them within their comfort zone (as defined by their experience, training and equipment - which they seemed to have conveyed to the shop).
    Steve_C likes this.
  6. Diving Dubai

    Diving Dubai Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Dubai UAE
    Sorry Brain Freeze can and does happen - even to experienced dives

    I submit this thread - The victim being a well thought of, highly experienced Instructor and MoD here on SB
  7. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor Staff Member

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    I thought I would add a recent experience to the debate about the role of a DM on a guided dive.

    I was recently diving in Palau, and before one dive, the DM was especially emphatic about the coming experience. At the end of the dive, we would be leaving the reef in an expected high current and doing the safety stop in blue water. It is essential, he said, that we stay close together in order to ensure we are safely picked up when we surface. The currents can be very strong, and a diver surfacing apart from the group and unnoticed could be on the way to the Philippines very quickly. Our group consisted of me, my two friends, and another couple.

    As we reached the end of the reef and were about to ascend, he signalled the ascent, and we started off the reef. The coupet had been constantly lagging behind and going their own way throughout the dive, and they decided that there was something of great photographic interest at the edge of the reef. The DM gestured to them emphatically that they needed to join us as the current started to carry us away. They clearly saw him. They clearly turned and ignored him. He got more and more emphatic as they turned first to look at him and then at their photographic interest as we were taken away by the current. Our view of them began to diminish. We were all worried. Eventually we could not see them at all. As we reached safety stop depth in the blue water, the DM kept looking around, clearly in distress. Finally I spotted the faint sign of bubbles in the distance, and we swam toward them. We caught sight of them, and eventually they caught sight of us. The DM gestured for them to come to us. They ignored him. He gestured emphatically. I was close enough to see the clear anger in his eyes. They eventually came over.

    Later, the rest of us in the group (all friends) talked with the DM about it. He was still angry. He said quite clearly that the safety of the divers is considered to be his responsibility. That was our last dive of the day. When we began diving the next day and for the rest of the week, the dive operator provided a separate guide for that couple.
    Dan_T, CT-Rich, Diving Dubai and 2 others like this.
  8. CT-Rich

    CT-Rich Solo Diver

    The failure of the couple to heed the instruction of the DM could have led to a bad outcome for the couple. If they were lost, we would be talking about the professionalismof the dive outfit. Since they were obviously disregarding the professional advice they paid for we would blame them. The dive guide obviously acted professionally because on the next dive they were able to get the attention they required from a seperate guide..

    Was the guide over reacting, trying to impose nanny state policies on experienced divers? Or was he trying to protect paying clients from there own stupidity? It’s hard to say, not having been there. Since the crew, who had experience on this location felt it was important, I’ll side with them.

    While diving in the Caymans in March, the resort canceled a day of boat diving and shore diving when the weather kicked up. To be honest, the entry and exit would not have been THAT difficult, we respected their wishes. Their boats/beaches, their rules. Had one of us decided to end zone the rules and gone diving anyway,and caught in a rip current to Jamaica, who gets blamed?

    When you pay for professional advice, you expect it to be there to mitigate your own lack of experience or judgement. The couple in the original story KNEW they needed more experienced hand to help with this lake dive and they I’d not get it.
  9. Norwegian Cave Diver

    Norwegian Cave Diver Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Calgary Alberta Canada
    There are two kinds of divers. Those that are wary, or have been taught to be wary, and those that are trusting. Sounds like these were trusting divers. That coupled with winning a dive that sounds like it was beyond their skill set and perhaps the attitude of "we won this dive - need to use it" caused them to do something they shouldn't have. Just my opinion.
  10. CT-Rich

    CT-Rich Solo Diver

    That “there are two kinds of divers” thing is nonsense. They were given a gift card for a dive through what should have been a reputable shop. Everyone seems to be harping on “certified divers” being responsible for themselves, what about the shop? Don’t they have instructors, DM that are certified to competently evaluate students and situations? This was supposed to be a guided e perience for divers new to the area. They had a reasonable expectation of professional grade advice and service, which they did not receive.

    Yes they should have smelt BS, and they paid for their failure with a life. The trial was about whether the shop and guide did what they were supposed to. Please stop blaming the victim. They knew this was new, they knew they needed someone with more experience than they had. They went to a local shop that sold those services and the business failed on multiple levels to provide what they paid for.

    If you drive out of a car shop with new tires on your car and the wheel falls off on the highway and causes a death, do you blame the mechanic or the customer for not checking the lug nuts? Or that the driver had never been trained on the emergency procedures for driving with only three tires?

    Easy to say “two types of divers” there are, live ones and dead ones. But how did they get that way???
    StefinSB likes this.

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