• Welcome to ScubaBoard

  1. Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

    Benefits of registering include

    • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
    • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
    • You can make this box go away

    Joining is quick and easy. Login or Register now by clicking on the button

Primary cause of preventable scuba deaths...poor judgment?

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by gcbryan, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. gcbryan

    gcbryan One Bad Hombre

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Seattle
    There is an excellent thread currently going on discussing OOA as a "trigger" for scuba deaths.

    I'm all for trying to learn from or prevent any scuba death where that's possible as I'm sure everyone else is as well.

    The only problem is that if you find a cause for a large percentage of scuba deaths it has to be something that the scuba industry as a whole can correct. To me the number one cause of scuba deaths is poor judgment and I'm not sure you can influence someones judgment abilities or common sense. It seems to me you either have it or you don't.

    To me there are three reasons for scuba deaths...heath related causes, your time is up (bad luck) issues or poor judgment.

    You can of course argue that anyone who had health problems in the water which resulted in death shouldn't have been there but I don't think that's fair for the most part. I'm not aware that most people having heart attacks were in poor condition otherwise (some no doubt but most not I would think).

    When you're luck is up (my words) this doesn't mean that you stop trying to prevent those but most times after a wind storm, for instance, we are able to drive under (near) a broken overhanging tree limb over a busy road and we don't die...on occasion someone does!

    I am still careful under those circumstances but I don't stop my car in the middle of the freeway and refuse to go forward nor would most people. In diving the equivalent of this happens as well. Not a whole lot that you can do about it in a realistic sense.

    Therefore poor judgment or lack of common sense seems to ultimately account for the rest. There are varying degrees of course but going too deep, too little air, OOA, and many even more unreasonable things seem to account for most of the preventable deaths. They are preventable only if you can improve someones common sense or judgment.

    I'm sure you can to a small degree but not much more than that in my opinion. There are many of us (probably most of us) who have never run out of air even when we were inexperienced and even if our training was poor. We still had common sense. We had the common sense to be conservative until we had more experience.

    I can think of many local diving deaths and they would all fit into these three categories with the first two categories being largely unpreventable. The third category seems to cover most everyone else.

    I'm not saying don't try as an industry or as an individual to prevent these deaths but I'm wondering if we aren't really about as low as we are going to get considering human nature. When talking about unemployment sometimes you here the term "structural unemployment" used. Maybe at a point in time someone defines that as 3%. So when unemployment goes below 3% it's considered full employment as all that you have left is "structural unemployment" or in other words a level beyond which you will not get (due to those in the process of moving, not looking for work, not able to work, etc). Maybe it's the same in diving. There will always be a small number that will die due to health, bad luck, or terminally poor judgment.

    I would appreciate any other opinions or perhaps examples of scuba deaths in your area where they don't fit into these categories. All the ones in my area do fit (IMO).
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2010
  2. knowone

    knowone Regular of the Pub

    Here. Here.

    What is the term for permitting those that require assistance without realisation.

    Avoid Heaven in Twenty Eleven.
  3. Garrobo

    Garrobo Great White

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Ohio
    I find that many of the diving deaths that I have read about are middle-aged people who have a medical problem while under water.
  4. Crush

    Crush Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Western Canada
    Stats for injuries are easier to come by since DAN asks every living person who calls them with an injury about previous medical conditions. In DAN's 2007 report, out of a total of 514 cases if injury, only 101 had past medical histories. In descending order of frequency, these were: cardiovascular (52), previous DCS (20), psychiatric (10 - makes you wonder, doesn't it...), respiratory (9), neurological (6) and diabetes (4).

    Causes of death, in decreasing order based on 55 decedents in 2005, are: drowning (28), acute cardiac condition (9), asphyxia (8 same as drowning when reported by coroner), AGE (5), sudden death (1, possibly cardiac), and multi-organ failure (1).

    It is hard to un-teach bad judgment since it stems from an inability to abstract possible consequences, both probable and improbable, to a given action and to grasp clearly the severity of said possible consequences. However, you can try to protect against specific archetypal forms of bad judgment - take, for instance, a "trust-me" dive, cave or otherwise. If you made all new divers to see some dramatic reenactments of what can happen to untrained divers in a cave and in a wreck, they would likely recall the lesson when someone invites them into such a dive.

    I propose that a list of specific archetypal forms of bad judgment be compiled based on several years worth of DAN injury and fatality reports. Next, a short five-minute reenactment should be made. The resultant hour-long video might help to inoculate some divers who are prone to bad judgment.

    Now all we need is the money...
  5. The Chairman

    The Chairman Chairman of the Board

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Cave Country!
    That could probably be said about ALL deaths. :D
  6. herbdb

    herbdb Manta Ray Rest in Peace

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Allentown, PA
    I think that panic plays a large part in these deaths. Working through an unexpected situation is only possible if you keep your cool. An unpaniced diver with a buddy can survive many of the situations that commonly result in deaths.
  7. Mr Carcharodon

    Mr Carcharodon Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Southern California
    How much judgement would you expect from a new diver? After all at half the deaths are to divers with less than 20 dives. For new divers their classes should be giving what they need to dive safely. If the classes don't do that they shoud change.
  8. gcbryan

    gcbryan One Bad Hombre

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Seattle
    Mpetryk...I like your suggestion of a reenactment film. They used to have those in drivers training and it was quite effective. It was later deemed as too gory (it wasn't a reenactment) and they quit using them.

    Herdb..I'm sure panic is involved in many scuba deaths but I think better judgment in most cases would have eliminated the situation that caused the panic in the first place (not in every case of course).

    Mr. Charcharodon...I expect good judgment from everyone but those who don't have it seem to end up in scuba death statistics. I don't think good judgment is lacking in someone just because they are new to scuba...they aren't new to life. My judgment didn't change just because I was a new diver. My experience level changed but I think you either have good judgment or you don't.

    I'm sure you wouldn't walk off the end of an unfinished bridge just because you don't have a lot of experience with unfinished bridges. You would be more conservative until you did have more experience.
  9. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many. Rest in Peace

    There are certainly deaths that are clearly the result of decisions made by the victim that virtually none of the rest of us would make. Bounce diving to 200 feet on a single tank, or going into caves untrained, are those kinds of errors.

    And then there are decisions where those of us with a lot of training, information or experience wouldn't make them, but somebody did. I put the death of the diver on the boundary line four years ago in that category. It appears that she simply didn't know that the gas supply she carried was inadequate for the dive she proposed to do, and that was compounded by an apparent lack of facility with emergency procedures.

    And then there are errors in judgment that other people might well make. It was clearly an error in judgment for the man to be walking on top of the Alki Pipeline rocks with his BC uninflated, but I could see a lot of people overlooking that simple precaution. I know I learned something from that accident, and never set foot in the water without a full wing, and at least one working regulator -- even when the weather is hot, and I want to do the rest of my checks where it's cool.

    Some of the deaths in training, where a diver is simply lost and never seen again, don't seem as though they were errors in judgment. We can't know for sure, but certainly the dive itself was approved by the instructor.

    So I suspect some deaths are inevitable and unforeseeable (medical, in people who aren't red flags for it) and some are inexplicable, and in the middle is a small group of accidents from which the rest of us can learn something.
  10. gcbryan

    gcbryan One Bad Hombre

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Seattle
    TS&M...it's hard to disagree with your comments in general. The boundary line incident I would read differently. I knew her and have been in the water with her (not as her buddy) and I just don't think training was the issue (it wouldn't have hurt of course). We can call it A.D.D or simply someone who had very little dive skills and didn't really seem too concerned about it or focused at all. That's just how she was. So, to me this is a case of where something like this will continue to happen as long as scuba is marketed as something for everyone with everyone passed (more or less) regarding their OW course.

    I do agree that there is from time to time a "small" group of accidents from which we can learn something and that is why I suspect most of us do follow the accident reports from time to time.

    In most cases however I don't think there is much to learn. Regarding the boundary line incident although I don't think training would have "taken" in that case I didn't see her as the most likely to die diving. There is an older couple who dive quite frequently, push the limits sometimes and always (and I mean always) have serious issues on every dive. Some people just aren't meant to scuba dive and they are the poster children for this and yet they are still (thankfully) with us.

Share This Page