instructor on rebreather dies in pool

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Posted by on May 12, 2005 at 06:37:07:

A high-tech device that allows scuba divers to rebreathe their exhaled air while underwater may have been a factor in the death of a dive instructor in Mineola, police said yesterday.

David Rampersad, 38, was using a "rebreather" when he was found unconscious Saturday afternoon in the shallow end of the Chaminade High School pool, cops said.

"We're looking into the rebreather to see if it had any malfunctions," said Detective Sgt. Richard Laursen of the Nassau Police Homicide Squad.

Rampersad, who had more than a decade of experience in diving, was a certified instructor for the Scuba Network dive shop in Carle Place.

Three other dive instructors from the shop were teaching a class Saturday at the Chaminade pool, which Scuba Network leases from the Catholic school, when Rampersad showed up about 1:30 p.m.

"He was not scheduled to instruct that day," Laursen said. "But he told one of the other instructors that he was having problems with the rebreather and wanted to test it out."

Rampersad, who was married and lived in Richmond Hill, Queens, entered the shallow end of the pool while the diving class trained in the deep end.

About 15 minutes later, an instructor spotted Rampersad unconscious in about 4 feet of water, his mouthpiece out of his mouth, Laursen said.

He was rushed by ambulance to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2:59 p.m.

Laursen said autopsy results are pending. In the meantime, the rebreather will be sent to a private laboratory to be examined for possible failure.

"We are going to test it. It could have been a medical event and [have] had nothing to do with the rebreather," he said.

Unlike the traditional scuba oxygen tank regulator system - in which the diver's entire breath is exhaled into the water - the rebreather reuses part of each breath.

The machine filters out carbon dioxide and recirculates oxygen left unused in each exhaled breath while adding more, extending dive time and providing a quieter experience by producing few or no bubbles. Its tanks are also much smaller and lighter than conventional oxygen tanks.

If the device malfunctioned, it is possible that Rampersad blacked out, lost his mouthpiece and drowned, Laursen said.

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