Diver Rescued / X-posted from Techdiver

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Posted by tleemay on August 17, 2000 at 09:25:36:

This popped up on the national Techdiver list last evening. Since
many that view this BBS do not subscribe to Techdiver, I figured
I would cross post this. I feel it's relative given the recent HEATED discussions surrounding the Yukon and what does/does not constitute proper training - and the effects on others on the scene should a similar situation occur while diving the wreck.


Subject: Trapped Diver Rescued
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2000 19:35:21 -0400
From: Barb & Ian Marshall
To: techdiver@aquanaut.com


With four fatalities last weekend; Ron Fuller, Tony Maffatone, David
Cooper, and a Diving Instructor in Tobermory, Ontario, I thought
people might like to hear of a rescue in the Straits of Mackinaw.

The Niagara Divers' Association had chartered two boats, "Virtual
Reality" (Capt. Andy Denato) and "Sand Dollar" (Capt. Jim Stayer), to
dive the area and were on the wreck of the Cedarville on Sunday.

The divers on the Sand Dollar had just removed their tanks after
completing a dive on the bow when KK, a diver from Chicago with a
group on the Intrepid, popped to the surface at the stern some 450'
feet away, waving his hands and calling for help. There was a BCD
and tank beside him in the water and Pat Stayer called that there was
an unconscious diver on the surface. While Jim Stayer notified the
other boats that there was an emergency, he spun the Sand Dollar
around to pick up the diver. As the diver was being pulled into the
boat, it was discovered that he was alone and the gear belonged to
him. He shouted that he and his buddy, JH, had gotten into the wreck
and that his buddy was still lost inside by a porthole on the wreck.
KK had managed to take off his gear on the bottom, squeeze through a
porthole and rocket to the surface. While Maria Bellantino (Welland,
Ontario) was setting up the NDA Dan O2 Kit to administer oxygen to
KK, the Straits Wreck Diver rafted off to the Sand Dollar. While the
group on the Sand Dollar was putting together a plan of action, Mike
Apple and Steve Ohrt (both from Columbus, Ohio) were completing their
dive and getting ready to board Virtual Reality (still at the bow).
Capt. Denato allowed Steve to board and then towed Mike, half on and
half off the swim platform to the mooring line.

It was decided that after a surface interval of only 17 minutes, Dave
Mekker (Stoney Creek, Ontario) and Anthony DeBoer (Richmond Hill,
Ontario) would gear up and go down to help the trapped diver. At the
same time, one of the captains off the Straits Wreck Diver (still to
be identified) jumped into the high 40 degree water with no thermal
protection to deliver a small pony bottle to the trapped diver.
Simultaneously, Andy Denato rigged up a spare 80 ft3 tank and sent it
down to the diver with Mike while Steve was in the water on standby.

By this time, KK was on oxygen and providing more details to Dave and
Anthony as they were gearing up. Shortly after Dave and Anthony hit
the water, Virtual Reality pulled up alongside Sand Dollar to
transfer an "H" oxygen bottle for a drop system that Jim was rigging
up with his own oxygen bottle. It was feared that all the divers
would be racking up a lot of decompression time, so the drop system
would provide 6 regulators for the divers to complete accelerated
decompression on pure oxygen at 20 feet. By this time, we received
word that air had been delivered to the trapped diver.
While the divers were down, there was a lot of activity on the
surface. Intrepid radioed Virtual Reality to inform them that they
could not start their engines and needed a tow and still had 6 divers
in the water. A Coast Guard zodiac was circling the site but not
providing assistance and another charter boat, Wet Dreams, was
arriving on site. Jim hailed Wet Dreams to see if they could provide
assistance, but they didn't answer his call and proceeded to the bow
mooring to complete their dive oblivious to the emergency that was
taking place. By this time, KK had drained the Niagara Divers'
Association oxygen cylinder but was showing no symptoms of DCS. We
could also see divers' bubbles coming from the descent line and
Dave and Anthony were soon on the surface. They delivered the good
news that the diver was safe with Mike, decompressing on the line.
Steve went down the line with a slate to let the two divers know that
there was oxygen available off the boat. Realizing that the divers
could not locate the oxygen drop system, Anthony and Dave descended
once again. After tying a reel off to the oxygen regulators, they
directed the divers back to the oxygen drop system for decompression.

Shortly thereafter, everyone surfaced and was back on board safe and

After arriving back at the dock and talking about the situation, more
details began to come out. JH said that he was banging his light on
the hull of the wreck in the hopes that someone would come over and
investigate and help him out. As it turns out, he said he saw wo
divers go right past him and take no notice of the situation. He was
getting dangerously low on air (he was unable to inflate his BC to
adjust his buoyancy on the way out) "when this diver in a bathing
suit passed him a small pony tank". When Mike reached him, he could
see the pressure gauge on the pony drop with each breath and had to
pass him the 80 within three minutes. He said JH's eyes were as big as
saucers. Mike had to also prevent JH from leaving the porthole in an
attempt to seek his own way out and to convey that help was on the

When Anthony and Dave first descended, they verified JH's position
and that he had air, then proceeded to find a way to reach him.
Because of the Cedarville's semi-inverted position, they had to
descend until they found an opening into the engine room, work their
way through an area they had never been before in almost zero
visibility, and ascend until they saw portholes and eventually found
JH. Dave led JH by the hand along the line, with Anthony reeling up
behind until they cleared the wreck. It's interesting to point out
that although Anthony and Dave are both cave certified, they had no
intention of doing any penetration this day, so all they had between
them was one video light, and one quickly borrowed backup light and

So what are the lessons that we need to learn from this incredibly
close call? If it has been said once, it has been said a thousand
times, all divers should know their limitations. Diving beyond your
training and without appropriate safety precautions is akin to
playing a game of Russian roulette. Is there anything that is worth
taking that type of risk? As was stated back at the dock after the
incident, you have to remember that when you take chances, not only
are you putting yourself in danger, but you are also endangering the
lives of those who will be coming to rescue you. As captain Andy
Denato stated back at the dock, if all JH is suffering from is some
embarrassment and he can still get home to have dinner with his
family, then the day turned out all right. The alternative is

Ian & Barbara Marshall marshall@vaxxine.com

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