One scuba diver dead, one injured, off Apo Island, Philippines

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Posted by scuba librarian on March 04, 2005 at 18:53:03:

DUMAGUETE CITY, Negros Oriental, Philippines (27 Feb 2005) -- A Filipino scuba diver died while his dive buddy was injured on Saturday after diving off Apo Island in Dauin town, Negros Oriental province.

Mario Pascobello, Apo Island barangay captain, identified the fatality as Raymond Gonzaga of Bacolod City. His dive buddy, Michael Sarrosa, said to be a nephew of Negros Occidental Governor Joseph Maraņon, was rushed to Cebu City for treatment of decompression sickness.

Decompression sickness, also called the bends, is caused by nitrogen bubbles forming in the bloodstream and tissues of the body. The bubbles occur if one moves from deep water towards the surface (where the surrounding pressure is lower) in too short a time.

Gonzaga and Sarrosa were part of a team of about 15 divers who came on board a pump boat from Liloan town in Cebu province late Saturday morning.

They dove without a local dive guide off Coconut Point in the northern side of Apo, considered the island's most dangerous point because of the treacherous current, which spreads in four directions.


Pascobello said the two divers, bringing two scuba tanks each, entered the water ahead of their companions and were separated from the group.

After 28 minutes under water, Gonzaga surfaced and collapsed after getting into the pump boat. He never regained consciousness, Pascobello said.

Pascobello said Sarrosa was able to resurface and got into another pump boat where he found a spare scuba tank. He immediately went on a decompressing dive.

A decompression dive makes a diver stay at a fixed safe depth for several minutes to allow the nitrogen accumulated in the body to escape from the bloodstream.

Pascobello said that from all indications, the two divers got the "bends" or decompression sickness. This happens when divers go too deep or go beyond the prescribed time limit under water.

In the case of the two divers, they went beyond the safe diving depth of 130 feet, as indicated by the data on their portable dive computers.

Pascobello said one diver registered having gone to a depth of 100 meters, or about 300 feet, but surfaced after only 28 minutes -- not enough time for them to decompress.

Then they climbed to 15 meters and Sarrosa surfaced four times "as if seeking assistance."

Pascobello said Gonzaga was probably the fifth diver and the first Filipino diver to die while diving off Coconut Point on Apo Island in recent years.

The other casualties were two Japanese, an American and a German.

Pascobello stressed that the incident could have been avoided had they hired local dive guides familiar with the currents in the various dive spots in the island.

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