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Lessons to be learned-Death in Palau

Discussion in 'Accidents & Incidents' started by detroit diver, Apr 10, 2003.

  1. O-ring

    O-ring Beyond the Pale ScubaBoard Supporter

    ...lots of good stuff. I forgot to give the appropriate kudos to your friend DD...amazing effort on her part. If not for her, the diver in question wouldn't even have had the chance she had.

    This is what sticks in my mind...the comments from the rescuer...

    1) Nobody on the boat had performed this CF procedure known as "reef hooking" before.

    2) It was only marginally covered in the briefing.

    3) What to do if you cannot unhook was NOT covered and a VERY real possiblity given the conditions. If the current was strong enough to knock masks and fins off, it was definitely strong enough to create enough drag against a hooked diver to prevent him/her (especially someone not too physically strong) from being able to pull himself/herself forward enough on the line to clear the bolt snap.

    4) Cutting devices were not mentioned or required, yet were definitely a major piece of safety equipment here given #3.

    I don't know who is liable, but the diver shouldn't have been there in the first place, should have had a buddy, should have had a cutting device, and should have had more experience dealing with this TARFU called "reef hooking" before attempting it in such demanding conditions.

    oncor23 likes this.
  2. GearHead

    GearHead Contributor

    One thing I haven't seen anybody make a point of was the size of the seas out there: Six foot swells are SIGNIFICANT! DD's friend even mentioned that she had to use her reg on the surface while she waited for the tender. Considering only that factor, it sounds like the husband may very well have a case.

    Also, I haven't been on a liveaboard, but this situation and others give me the impression that there is a ton of pressure on the dive operators to get these people to their dive sites NO MATTER WHAT for 5+ dives a day. If indeed there's that kind of pressure from the divers, and the boat captain/decision-maker is caving in despite their better judgment, then the operation should be found at fault.

    Now I don't know if that logic applies in this case, but having done some Roatan boat dives in 3 and 4 foot swells, I don't think they should have been in the water with 6 footers. Those kinds of conditions are precisely when the chance of an accident goes through the roof.
  3. WreckWriter

    WreckWriter Instructor, Scuba

    Interesting concept, huh? First I've heard of it actually. Sounds like just another attempt to make undiveable conditions diveable.

    I can picture it done, especially with a load of Cozumel commandos who haven't done many, if any, unguided dives. Bet its hell on the reef but over there they don't care much about that stuff. Remember, foreign country, foreign laws, including liability.

    If the current is strong enough to pull your mask off (likely would take about 3 kts), especially coupled with a 6 foot sea, you shouldn't be diving.

    Darwin's law?

  4. jepuskar

    jepuskar Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Chicago, IL
    However you look at it, she shouldn't of been in the water then. Like Gearhead stated about the swells, this lady obviously saw those swells before she got in the water. The fact that she had a full tank of air and the reg in her mouth shows she was not skilled enough to probably be diving at all.

    However, this is her call to make, by presenting her C-Card to Peter Hughes diving, she is implying she knows her skills and can make good judgement on her diving abilities.

    I sound pro-PH, but I just feel the majority of the responsibility falls on the diver, not the boat captain or the divemaster. Why do people have a hard time digesting this. It's not like they forced her to dive or didn't have the proper rescue equipment on board. All of the other divers were fine..physically that is.
  5. O-ring

    O-ring Beyond the Pale ScubaBoard Supporter

    People who aren't clear about how one could not be able to unhook can try this little experiment at home. Put on your BC and grab a jonline with a boltsnap/clip on the end of it (or use your dog's leash in a pinch). Attach it to something and lean against it or walk backward (hard) and try to unclip it.
  6. ericfine50

    ericfine50 DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Grafton, MA
    I acutally saw this on TLC or Discovery a few weeks ago. Two brits were doing some diving and they would take (looked like a large Tuna hook and some bungee) the reef hook and jam it into a dead section of the reef (wonder how that happened?) and sit and watch the fish go by. The water looked flat and I don't know about the current.

  7. donacheson

    donacheson Solo Diver

    # of Dives:
    Location: Maryland
    Hooking in usually does less damage to the reef than grabbing it with one's hands, as evidenced by Blue Corner in Palau. Of course, it's best if divers don't touch the reef at all, but in many places, Pelilieu Cut and Blue Corner included, stopping and watching the shark and big fish action is an important attraction. Used properly, the hook confines damage to a very small area on the underside of a small coral head or protrusion, preferably a dead one. Parrotfish do a lot more damage to coral, but that's quite natural.

    In my fairly extensive dive travels, I've yet to encounter a place which forbids the use of reef hooks, but hooks are not often required. I've used them on some dives in Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Coral Sea, and Fiji but have never been on a dive in the Caribbean on which one would have been useful.
  8. GearHead

    GearHead Contributor

    This is the first time I've ever heard of "reef hooking" like a lot of others here, and especially thinking about your example, Eric, it sounds dangerous as he**. (can I say "dangerous"?)

    The more I think about the blame, though, jepuskar's got a point. Legally, PHD is probably screwed, mostly because of the conditions. But ultimately, the diver herself, and her husband are the ones that chose to go diving knowing there was a strong current, 6 foot seas, and a technique she probably wasn't trained for.

    Who wants to bet that the husband "encouraged" her to do this dive because of the challenge, or because of the sharks or whatever?And who wants to bet that had he been well trained and/or skilled enough, he could have been able to stay close to, and help his buddy. He's going to sue Peter Hughes, and he will probably get a big settlement, but I doubt it will do much to help his own guilty conscience.
  9. WreckWriter

    WreckWriter Instructor, Scuba

    You're right, its clearly an unsafe and stupid practice. Had this person been doing a standard drift dive she would have likely survived.

    Some folks have said she should have called the dive. I bet she would have loved to! Unfortunately she was hooked to the bottom and unable to get loose. Then the equipment started blowing away.....

    Its really amazing. I've seen people pull some really stupid stuff underwater but, with the possible exception of shark dives, this takes the cake.

    Hughes SHOULD be held liable but I bet that boat isn't a U.S. registered corporation and therefore won't be held accountable in any way.

  10. detroit diver

    detroit diver Contributor

    I may be a purist here, but I don't think ANY damage is acceptable to the reef.

    The hook only confines the damage if the user is proficient in using the hook. The new "reef hook" specialist will attempt to hook whereever they can, including live, healthy corals. And when they miss, which is highly likely, what else do they tear up on the pass?


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