Aussie cave diver likely dead

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Posted by on January 09, 2005 at 03:56:13:

In Reply to: One of the recovery divers died as well. + posted by Max Bottomtime on January 08, 2005 at 21:31:17:

Experts say equipment failure at an extreme depth likely cost Australian diver Dave Shaw his life as he tried to retrieve another diver's body from the world's third deepest freshwater cave.

Mr Shaw is feared dead, a day after he failed to surface from a mission to recover the body of a diver who perished in the Boesmansgat cave in South Africa's Northern Cape in 1994.

Mr Shaw disappeared at a depth of 270 metres, the point at which he had expected to reach Deon Dreyer's remains.

South African police said it was extremely unlikely that Mr Shaw - an experienced cave diver who lived in Hong Kong and was originally from Perth - would be found alive.

Cave Divers Association of Australia national director Warrick McDonald said deep dives beyond 200 metres were extremely hazardous.

"There are so many things than can go wrong," Mr McDonald said.

"This is extreme technical diving using closed circuit rebreathers. It was dangerous."

Mr McDonald said Mr Shaw had probably fallen victim to an equipment malfunction, possibly with his rebreather, which recycled expired air.

He said deep divers required multiple mixes of air, as oxygen became poisonous and nitrogen began to act as a narcotic at the depth Mr Shaw was operating.

Exertion at great depths caused fatal convulsions, he said.

If Mr Shaw had descended too quickly he might have become caught in mud on the sea floor.

"Basically at that depth, if his alarms had gone off, he may not have been able to do anything about it in time," Mr McDonald said.

On his own website, Mr Shaw said he and a team of divers had planned Saturday's mission since October, when he discovered Mr Dreyer's body during a world-record descent.

Mr Shaw was to be part of a relay team which would work to pass the body to the surface.

"The dive will be unique and huge," he said of the mission on his website.

Speaking to Sky News last week, Mr Shaw said that when he reached the cave bed it would take up to five minutes to put Mr Dreyer's remains into a body bag.

"I need to cut him out of his dive gear because his dive gear is stuck into the mud," he said.

"And then, as a secondary task, I'm going to tie a line to his dive gear and later on we'll try and pull it up from the surface."

Another diver Don Shirley, who during the recovery attempt was stationed at a depth of 220 metres, descended to search for Mr Shaw without success.

Mr Shaw, together with his wife Ann, had lived in Hong Kong since 1989. His two children Steven and Lisa live in Australia.

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