Posted by on January 09, 2005 at 04:19:38:
In Reply to: One of the recovery divers died as well. + posted by Max Bottomtime on January 08, 2005 at 21:31:17:
Double disaster as diver dies
Boesmansgat - The attempt to take Deon Dreyer home after 10 years claimed the life of a diver on Saturday.
Dreyer's body had been lying at a depth of 270m at the bottom of Boesmansgat Cave since December 1994.
The third deepest freshwater cave in the world lies at the end of a 10km stretch of dirt road on the farm Mount Carmel, 50km south of Kuruman.
In the middle of the open veld, a large crater 50m deep tapers down to an opening only a few metres wide.
On Saturday, a team of volunteer technical divers and police divers, assisted by paramedics attempted to recover Dreyer's remains.
The divers entered the 18 deg water at 06.15. Thirty minutes later things began to go wrong.
Australian diver Dave Shaw, who was to dive to the bottom to secure Dreyer's remains failed to meet his team mate Don Shirley at 220m.
Got decompression sickness
Shirley, the dive's technical co-ordinator, then descended 250m in an attempt to look for Shaw but began suffering from decompression sickness.
Vomiting and disorientated he returned to the surface about 16:00 on Saturday and was placed in a recompression chamber.
Shaw was not seen again.
Police diver Inspector Theo van Eeden said that Shaw's wife and two children, who live in Australia, had been informed of his disappearance.
A day before the dive Shaw, who discovered Dreyer's body on October 28 last year, demonstrated how he had planned to seal Dreyer's remains into a green body bag.
Shaw was unable to bring Dreyer's body to the surface during his October dive as his oxygen cylinders were firmly embedded in the mud.
Once Shaw had secured the body he planned to take it up to Shirley.
Dreyer's body was then to be passed up seven more times from one diver to the next until, at 20m, police divers would pull him to the surface an hour and 20 minutes later.
A team of 30 people, including police and paramedics, were involved in the recovery attempt.
It was the deepest body recovery of its kind ever attempted, Shaw said on Friday.
A huge challenge
"The dive is a huge challenge. I am quietly confident that we can get Deon up. I am not putting myself in any danger to get his body."
It would have taken Shaw 15 minutes to descend to the bottom. Once there he would have had five minutes to secure the body and take it to Shirley.
According to the plan, it would then have taken Shaw 11 hours and 50 minutes to return to the surface, cold, exhausted and hungry, having sipped only water and energy gel for 12 hours.
"On the bottom, time is critical," Shaw said on Friday.
At 270m every second would add one and a half minutes to the time it would take him to re-surface.
"This is an extreme dive. I am repeating a world record dive with a task at the bottom," Shaw said.
Don Shirley said of the hours it would take to resurface that "it's not real time. It feels like (being in) space. You go into a sleep state."
Waiting for Dreyer's body at a depth of 100m was Steven Sander, the owner of a security company in Johannesburg, who was a police diver for 16 years.
'Very lonely and very cold'
The water at Boesmansgat was so clear, he said, it was "like diving in mineral water. It's very lonely and very cold."
Each of the eight technical divers wore equipment worth R100 000 weighing up to 35kg.
They used closed-circuit rebreathers. Unlike conventional scuba diving gear, rebreathers recycle exhaled gas by chemically scrubbing it of carbon dioxide with soda lime.
Thus diving on a rebreather is bubble-free, less wasteful of gas and allows more dive time.
In addition to the air and oxygen cylinders attached to the rebreather packs is also a cylinder of argon gas used to inflate the diver's suit and insulate the diver from the cold.
Speculating on how Dreyer met his end on December 17 1994, Shaw said on Friday that Dreyer, who was at a depth of 70m, was working "a bit too hard" causing an excess of carbon dioxide to build up in his system, which then caused him to black out.
But it would be impossible to ever determine the exact cause, he said.
Inspector Van Eeden had his own ideas concerning Shaw's death.
"Maybe his rebreather packed up. Only he will know."
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