My take on the diver floating away..., the first place to look for a dive instructor

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Posted by seahunt on April 30, 2004 at 11:35:51:

I am not a D. M. I have never been a D. M., but I've been on an awful lot of boats, seen a lot of procedures and I've seen a lot of D. M.'s that have immensely impressed me with their ability to promote diver safety.
What I am good at is analyzing systems. There are a lot of factors involved in this incident that relate to the diver being left behind.
To start with, a basic principle of all systems and especially safety systems is redundancy to prevent failure. The following is a list of the systems that were in place or might have been used, that all failed in this situation. If any had worked the event would never have happened. The thing to remember is that not only are the oil rigs of some of the most exotic and beautiful diving in California, they are also some of the most challenging.
1. The dive shop should have questioned whether the diver was qualified or not. The diver was not highly experienced as shown by history or actions. Obviously this relates to real financial considerations as well as that the diver was a regular. System failed.
2. A question comes up about the dive briefing. When I have dove the rigs, I was always told to swim under the rig, dive under the rig, come up under the rig and then proceed under the rig to the boat. Never leave the rig. To do so puts you in an emergency situation. .
3. The diver was seriously at fault. I do not know if he was under the rig when he descended, but he should have been and if he was having problems clearing and he should have proceeded to a rig support and oriented on it. I have done this. System failed.
4. The diver drifted for 15 minutes underwater! Now that shows a lack of experience and caution. Then he didn't try to swim for the boat! System failed.
5. Did the D. M. watch the diver descend? Was the D. M. looking for bubbles going away from the rig. I have seen D. M.'s very scrupulously do that. The systems failed or was not used.
6. The D. M. blew the roll call. System failed
7. An independent tank count was not done. Note the problem with a tank count method is not missing tanks, it is free divers. System was not known to be used.
8. An independent headcount was not done. The problem with that method is moving bodies can make it difficult. System was not known to be used.
9. The diver's buddies totally dropped the ball. System failed.

Based on analysis and my experience, I would say that they should have been an independent redundant system. That means they should have been the voice roll call by the D. M. and they should have been a headcount or tank count by a crew member. Is that a perfect system? Probably not, but according to theory it would be close to the best. Technically, a fail safe system is usually considered to have triple redundancy.
The only alternative is not considered here is a diver sign in and that is not going to be infallible either.
On my last trip to the rigs, the skipper gave a half hour dive briefing. That is the longest dive briefing I have ever had. We were divided into two groups. The first group was supposed to be the most experienced and was would most enter the water first. Before I even entered the water I asked the D. M. what the heck the divers were doing floundering around on the surface under the rig. At the end of the dive, a diver came up outside of the rig and almost got in the way of the crew boat. Luckily someone on the crew boat saw him or he might have been chowder. When we got on the boat we recalled together in the galley again and reamed. Something along the line of "AND YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE EXPERIENCED DIVERS, ANY MORE CRAP LIKE THAT AND THE REST OF THE DIVES WILL BE AT THE GOLDFISH BOWL!!!".
Another important thing here that I think might have been ommitted. Did the D.M., the crew or the diver think about that the rig dives are about the most advanced sport dive there is in California?
Against stupidity the Gods themselves contended in vain. You're a diver. The price of stupidity can be high.
Considering Ray's reputation and considering all of the things that went wrong that could have prevented the accident, one could conclude that the accident was almost completely unavoidable. Six systems failed that could have prevented the accident.
As for me, I solo. I've probably made 1000 dives where the current could have gotten me or I couldn't have made the boat. It's called heads up self reliant diving. It's how a diver survives.
Enjoy the diving, seahunt

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