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Posted by on February 03, 2005 at 14:30:46:

In Reply to: Re: Diver hurt in Monterey this weekend posted by Rocket an on January 31, 2005 at 16:48:17:

From: Pete Gelbman
Subject: [baue] 10 second elevator ride
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2005 14:35:48 -0800
User-Agent: Mutt/1.4.1i


From the calls/emails it seems word gets around quickly. Here are the
details of an accident that happened this past Sat.

A group of us went out on the Escapade on Sat AM. Plan was to head south
for some 150-200' ish diving in Carmel but swell was too nasty so we
ended up staying in the bay and diving the reef near Mile Buoy. Weather
and headcolds reduced the original crowd down to only six of us, teams
got re-arranged and John H and I ended up as a team. We had 18/45 in our
104's and planned a 140-150' for 30 min with 30 min deco from 70' up,
carrying 50% and O2. Other teams were all doing roughly the same

We did some gear checks on boat, hopped in, swam to the bow and did
bubble checks. We were last team in. Just b4 we dropped John said he
thought my primary 2nd was bubbling a bit. I double checked it, no
bubbles and was breathing fine so we dived. Vis was good, and dive went
as planned, just farted around the reef enjoying the life. Current was
mild to none, so we came back to general vicinity of the anchor line,
looked for it casually until we hit 30 min BT then started a drift deco.
Went fine, normal deep stops, got to 70', John watched me switch gas,
then I watched him, alls well. I signaled 5 min deco to him, he agreed
and I gave him the "shoot a bag" sign, since he had been designated for
this prior to the dive. As he started digging in his pocket, I dumped a
bit of gas from my wing, and added a bit of argon to my suit and settled
in for a comfortable deco. I usually keep my light on, clipped off
facing down during deco for signaling purposes but for some reason today
I turned it off and stowed it. Water was blue, great vis, our deco
relatively short, and since we were planning a another longer second
dive later I just decided to turn it off.

As I watched John fiddling with the bag, I suddenly heard some gas
leaking somewhere fairly loudly. Sound was coming from front of my body
and my first thought was one of my second stages was free-flowing, so I
looked over my clipped-off primary, my necklace, then my stages. I
started losing my buoyancy and suddenly I realized the sound was my wing
inflater going crazy. I tried unhooking the LP hose but couldn't get it
off - while wrestling with it, I looked over at John to get his
attention but I was already a few feet above him. I remember cursing
myself for turning off my light.

From above John I reached over to try to yank his SMB line to get his
attention but at this point I was ascending really fast. I reached back
with right hand to turn off right post and back with my left hand to
release my rear dump. The wing was so full that the dump valve was
crushed into my argon reg assembly, although I could touch it I couldn't
get my fingers on the string to dump it. While I was struggling with
that I couldn't reach my right valve well enough to turn it off. At this
point I was in a total out-of control ascent, heads-down, feet full of
gas and just as I was was about to somersault to dump my suit I sensed
myself screaming through ambient light and realized I was totally
screwed. I managed to flare and exhale, and then it was over - one
minute I'm enjoying a school of blue rockfish, next I'm floating alone
on the surface about 30' away from the boat.

The in-water stuff is very clear in my head but afterwards things get a
bit fuzzy in parts. Everything was very peaceful & surreal - I saw the
boat crew milling around on deck but for some reason I just sat there in
the water not saying anything. I remember thinking to myself - did that
just happen? Then it occurs to me that I need to do some deco and I
start wondering about how and where to drop back down. Suddenly the boat
crew sees me and shouts are you ok? I swam over to the boat and they are
all asking a bunch of questions - I tell them I did a 140' for 30 and
had an uncontrolled ascent from 70'. Jim asks me how much deco, I tell
him about 2 minutes on 50% then a Polaris to the surface. I tell them I
need to get down to do some deco but they urge me to get on the boat and
on O2. I said hold on, just give me a minute to calm down, and I float
around the swimstep thinking. I'd like to say I was logically weighing
my options but honestly I don't really remember what I was thinking and
after a minute I just started blindly handing up my stages. They helped
me doff my doubles in the water, and I climbed out and sat down with the
full-face O2 they gave me. Its been a few minutes at this point and I
remember wondering if its possible that I'll somehow just be ok?

About a minute later my left elbow starts sharply throbbing, then my
wrist. I tell Jim, he goes off somewhere, I think to the radio.
Suddenly I get this very strange hot, numbing sensation deep inside my
abdomen and it starts spreading down into my private parts. Then my
right elbow kicks in. It suddenly dawns on me that this is real and not
looking too good. I tell the crew and ask them to help me out of my
drysuit. By the time we peel off my undergarment my legs are shaking and
losing strength. I layed down on the deck and crew tells me we're
scrambling to the shore and helps me hold the O2 mask on my face. At
this point I've lost almost all feeling and strength from my waist down.
I remember thinking this is a scene right out of a Doria book and just
closed my eyes and started praying.

This is already getting too long. Bottom line, boat dropped off a safety
diver in the water to stay with the other teams, and ran back to
Monterey harbor where rescue team meets us and gets me off the boat.
They get me to the hospital emergency room pretty quick, where Kim (Phil
Sammet's wife) gave me an eval and took great care of me. Had to wait
for a doctor to show up and assess me then another rescue crew scooted
me down to the Pacific Grove chamber. Interestingly, by the time I got
there most of my type II symptoms were gone and I was walking ok. Guess
O2 is good stuff. Within about 2 hours from the incident in was in the
chamber where I went for a long, boring Table 6.

A few days later and I've got no symptoms and am very thankful. Its
pretty clear that my body suffered some major tissue damage, my legs and
feet feel sort of weak and sensitive and I'm sleeping a lot. For some
reason the first two nights I sweated a lot at night and my legs got
cold, but thats gone now. Overall I'm fine and just need to let my body

Obviously words cannot express my appreciation to the Escapade crew,
Monterey Rescue, Monterey ER staff, and Pacific Grove Hyperbaric team
for saving my butt. Susan, John, Clinton, Nick and Harry were terrific
buddies, sorting out my gear/truck, generally went way beyond the call
of duty, staying around for hours even getting me some food inside the
chamber. A special thanks goes to Beto and Susan who went way out of
their way to get my wife down to Monterey and generally taking care of
her through the whole ordeal.

The reason I'm writing this report is to hopefully educate folks about
this failure mode. Escapade crew says that when they got my gear on the
boat my wing was auto-inflating faster than if you press the button. I
took a look at my right post reg last night - its screwed, IP gauge pegs
at 300+ psi. Looks like it was probably creeping and after switching to
my deco bottle and no longer relieving the pressure by breathing from
the reg, it blew out into my wing. The recovery mode that we learned
from AG a few years ago has you simultaneously shutdown right post and
vent rear wing dump with left. Delia has a description of her training
experience on this issue in her T1 report on the BAUE website. I use my
rear dump regularly on all dives and can normally reach my valves with
no trouble. I've practiced the procedure several times on fun dives and
previously considered myself proficient at it. Unfortunately, when the
real thing happened it just didn't work out and my own inexperience did
me in. In my case there were no bubbles from my right post itself, so I
didn't immediately recognize that the first stage had failed.
Unfortunately it took me too long to figure out exactly what was going
on and when I did, I didn't fix it quickly enough.

While the right-post shutdown & left rear dump move may be possible for
some, I wasn't able to pull it off. With the benefit of hindsight, it
seems almost crazy to suggest this procedure. On a tech dive with heavy
doubles and stages, in runaway ascent situation the very last thing you
want to do is put yourself in a slightly heads down position, trying to
pat your belly and scratch your head at the same time. Sometime,
somewhere, George said that the only true way out of this scenario is to
simply pinch off the LP inflater hose. Looking back at the event, I
certainly wished I paid more attention to this and thought about this
failure scenario more thoroughly on my own.

I downloaded my Suunto profile today. My D3 is set to record every 10
seconds. Looking at the graph, from about 65' to surface is covered in 1
vertical line between 2 data points, meaning the whole thing happened in
about 10 seconds. Obviously the solution needs to be really simple and
and really quick. Clearly I'm in no position to be giving advice to
anyone, but in my estimation the "right" answer for this failure mode is
to simply pinch the LP hose with right hand while dumping the hose
inflater with left hand. Nothing more, nothing less. This will naturally
have your upper body a little bit elevated in the water with left arm
highest, ensuring your suit is able to auto-vent at same time.

There's obviously some conflict going on in the "DIR world" right now -
I have no desire to be involved in any of that. Some diving related
things are not obvious and become actual safety/training issues, I
simply hope divers reading this can learn something from the event and
my mistakes.

Other random comments:

I've gotten different views on whether I should have gone back down to
do my deco. Truthfully, at the time I was pretty freaked out and just
didn't know what to do. Ideally we need to be able to drop back down
with a boat safety diver and finish some deco if something like this
happens, but this is a very situation-specific decision with many
factors to consider. At the end of the day I was just very blessed that
this happened in the bay close to home where Jim was able to safely
leave the other teams in the water to save my butt. The scariest thing
of all this is that original plan for the day had us diving in 200'
range down the coast in Carmel/Bigsur area, hours away from rescue. I
sincerely thank God for the 14' swell on Sat.

Cold water complicates everything. Many of us have probably dealt with
the fairly common leaky inflater by unhooking our LP hose. I remember
actually thinking to myself once "I hope I never have to do this in a
hurry". On a runaway ascent its a lost cause.

I've had a few intermittent IP creep issues with all 3 of my Apeks ATX
200's. Several other local divers have had issues with them. Its been my
own irresponsible fault for continuing to dive them. All of my TX50's
have been solid with no issues. I actually had the 200's serviced just 3
months ago and had said to myself if they crept again I'd replace them.
I should have never kept them as long as I did, they're history.

Unless in bright blue water where you can't see them at all, lights need
to stay on till dive is over.

A rule of the universe seems to be that bad things happen at bad times.
We need to be facing each other, in arms reach, aware, alert, watching
each other at all times during all tasks. Basic DIR, anything less will
not work when it matters.

This was long, sorry. Hopefully its useful.



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