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Old dive accident: 2001 student diver in Lake George, NY

Discussion in 'Accidents & Incidents' started by Ryebrye, Sep 23, 2020.

  1. Ryebrye

    Ryebrye Registered

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Vermont
    I came across this almost-20 year old dive accident while browsing through Newspapers.com archives - I found a few other articles that mentioned some additional details, but I'm curious if there is more information about what happened from a diving point of view (and, in the spirit of accident threads: how to avoid this happening to me or anyone in my dive party)

    Source: The Post-Star (Glens Falls, New York) · 15 May 2001, Tue · Page 1, and Page 6

    The short version is that instructor had the students in the lake for the first time. Other articles I found mentioned that this was their third dive. They were down 60 feet deep and another article I found claimed that the issue that Fenn experienced at 60 ft that caused the instructor to want to surface was that Fenn's mask began to fill with water.

    I found another article from August that states that the diver (Amy) was still in a coma after three months and the family was doing a fundraiser. I didn't find much information about her recovering. I found an obituary from someone with the same name from 2012, but the obituary is very brief and I'm not sure if it was the same person.

    I'm assuming there may be others from the area who are more familiar with what happened?

    I found another article that stated that both Fenn and Solaris were hospitalized for unrelated issues. That seems to imply it was more than just a flooding mask.

    Going to 60 feet on the first open water dive and third overall dive seems unusual based on how I was trained, but maybe it was common practice in 2001? Maybe it's still common practice in some areas?
  2. coldwaterglutton

    coldwaterglutton Contributor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Connecticut
    I don't know where the underwater temperatures at depth in Lake George vary, but for sure at the surface in May can be some pretty cold water in an upstate New York lake.
  3. rjack321

    rjack321 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Port Orchard, Washington State
    curious why you went back almost 20 years for this?
    If there was no more complete analysis done back then (which I doubt there ever was and a significant chunk of newspaper reporting on dive accidents struggles with basic facts too) I doubt we will ever know what led to her death.

    That said 60ft is deep and gas goes fast for a newb
    Lake George doesn't have much ambient light at 60ft
    Its cold below the thermocline
    AL80s for a student in this situation can get drained shockingly fast

    Low on air or OOA, panic and/or CO2 are the most likely contributors along with large class size which isn't explicitly stated but based on other instructors being there on shore and the instructor in charge being unable to assist 2 at once I am guessing this wasn't a 2 person class and was more of a big shop group event.
  4. Ryebrye

    Ryebrye Registered

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Vermont
    I was curious because it's relatively close by and the lack of any analysis in the papers left my wondering what the heck happened. Yes, it's old... But it was new to me.

    I guess I was secretly hoping someone from that area is on scubaboard and would chime in: "I was there that day... " or maybe "I worked at the dive shop near there and heard about this... Here's what I heard..." - because you're right, the details the paper might report are filtered through the reporters sense of "what makes sense" and might not make sense from a diving point of view

    ... And I don't want whatever happened there to happen to me! (Which is part of why I read through lots of dive accident reports... I used to do the same thing with climbing or mountaineering accident reports when I was more actively involved in those sports)

    I'm guessing she must have been over weighted if she suddenly couldn't ascend? I'm very new, but we are ascending we are always letting air out to avoid going up too fast - maybe she dumped too much air and then started to sink? Didn't think to drop weights as she started to descend (that would have been covered in the pool before going into open water I assume?)
  5. rjack321

    rjack321 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Port Orchard, Washington State
    DAN statistics show that the vast majority of scuba drowning victims still have their lead on. I dont have a link to that but not ditching is far more common than it should be
  6. Barnaby'sDad

    Barnaby'sDad ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Virginia
    It could have been any number of causes. There is insufficient information in that piece to reach any conclusions.

    Let’s say when she was found...her tank was empty (hypothetical):

    -Is that because she ran it OOA? As was already said...an AL80 is not going to last long with a new diver at 60’.

    -Did her regulator free flow when it was kicked from her mouth (Hypothetical...the piece mentions the regulator not being in her mouth when they found her and the possibility that she was kicked), she wasn’t able to recover it, and the tank ran OOA?

    -Is it because her BC failed, purged the gas contents, and she used the remaining gas in her tank attempting to fill it, and then went OOA? Still had her weights (overweighted...as many students are), so dropped like a rock.

    You never know...someone could come along that is familiar with what happened.
    Esprise Me, apenland01 and rjack321 like this.
  7. Seaweed Doc

    Seaweed Doc MSDT ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Seattle, Washington State, USA
    A couple thoughts:

    1. The newspaper article implies she had air because her equipment was in working order. Yes, reporters get it wrong at times. But the only information we have is the report.

    2. I wouldn't hesitate to take a student on open water dive 3 to 60 feet, at least where I dive. Dive 4 the student plans and leads, I just follow. If the training is "to 60 feet" I'd rather they first hit that depth with me leading. But definitely not on the first open water dive.

    3. I don't know Lake George. It sounds like you go quite deep on a vertical line? Seems pretty sketchy for training. I'd rather students do skills for the first time in 15-25' deep water, especially if it's cold.

    My money is on panic followed by loss of buoyancy control. Some folks spit out there regs when they panic.
    Esprise Me likes this.
  8. Seaweed Doc

    Seaweed Doc MSDT ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Seattle, Washington State, USA
    I Googled Amy Solari SCUBA and saw an obituary and news reports of her being hospitalized but improving. Age, name and location all match.

    Sadly, based on the memorial request and photo in the obit., I'm guessing she suffered permanent brain damage. She died 11 years after the accident.
    Ayisha and rjack321 like this.
  9. Edward3c

    Edward3c Instructor, Scuba

    If you want to read incident reports, the BSAC ones are here.
  10. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    This is something I have mentioned in many threads. Yes, the vast majority of divers die with their weights on, but in all but a few of the cases, that is irrelevant.

    People who die without getting to the surface usually are not impeded by weights; simply starting an ascent with a working BCD will get them to the surface because of expanding air. Most deaths are caused by medical events, such as a heart attack, with the diver quickly incapacitated, often unconscious. An unconscious diver cannot drop weights, and in most of those cases it would not matter if they did. In many other cases, divers made it to she surface and died there, and a DAN study found that the most likely reason in those cases is an out of control ascent, likely holding the breath, leading to a gas embolism. In such cases, dropping weights would definitely not be a benefit. In a surprisingly high number of cases, divers are either intentionally solo or separated from the buddy and are found dead, with no clear cause. It cannot be told if dropping weights would have helped. (A ScubaBoard friend of mine died that way; to this date there is no known reason for her death in shallow water close to shore.)

    A few years ago I went through every description of fatalities in two annual DAN reports, and I could find only a handful of cases in which dropping weights might have helped. Some cases involved people who reached the surface with empty tanks and were unable to stay there, meaning not only that they did not remember how to orally inflate the BCD but that they were pretty significantly overweighted as well. In one case well discussed on ScubaBoard, a diver was diving a new BCD and was intentionally significantly overweighted to make it easier to dig out lobsters. When he ran out of air, he was unable to drop weights because he was unfamilar with the BCD. (The story did not specify why he had that problem; my GUESS from what was described is that he was using a Zeagle BCD and put the weights in the wrong pockets.) Sadly, that case was a double fatality because the diver who came to his rescue was using a rental regulator set with no alternate air source, so they tried to buddy breathe.
    Bob DBF and Esprise Me like this.

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