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Russian Diver Death Due To “Health And Safety Breakdown”: Fellow Diver


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Posted by on June 05, 2008 at 18:06:47:

In Reply to: Dive Accident Victims Face Maldivian Government Silence posted by on June 05, 2008 at 18:02:16:

A diver present at last week’s diving accident in the Maldives, which led to the death of 41-year-old Russian tourist Roman Rudakov and injured nine others, has said “a complete systemic breakdown in health and safety procedures” led to the tragedy.

Citing the air poisoning which apparently caused the accident, a lack of first aid knowledge on the part of boat crew, and an “unusable” oxygen cylinder, the diver – himself an experienced divemaster – has called for an overhaul of safety measures in Maldives to ensure further accidents are prevented.

But spokespeople for police and Touring Maldives, owner of the Baani Adventurer safari boat from which the accident occurred, said they could not comment on any such failures until the ongoing investigation is complete.

Faulty Air Supply

he accident occurred on the morning of May 22 as tourists from the Baani Adventurer vessel dived on the Raydhigaa Thila reef. Initial reports from the tourism ministry said 11 were injured, but fellow divers say the total was ten.

Tourists from Australia, Germany, Denmark, Russia and New Zealand were affected. One was Kudarov, who died at the scene.

“This could so easily have been a six or seven death incident,” says the diver, who performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Rudakov.

He believes the accident was caused by a long-term air supply problem, possibly relating to carbon monoxide contamination, which had not been addressed – constituting “criminal negligence”.

Following the accident, which is now under investigation by police, it became clear none of the boat crew were trained in emergency procedures, whilst the single bottle of oxygen available on the dive dhoni was “unusable”.

The Accident

Several of the tourists and one dive guide had experienced headaches in preceding days. The dive guide on May 21 requested a filter change on the compressors used to fill the air tanks for diving, but it appears problems then worsened.

After the diver’s companion felt ill during the May 22 dive, he surfaced to find most of the group semi-conscious or unconscious.

The two dive guides were incapacitated, and according to the diver, “none of the topside crew on either boat appeared to have any training whatsoever in the provision of oxygen or emergency first aid”.

A spokesman for Touring Maldives said the crew were trained, but “panicked” and did not carry out correct procedures. In the event, the four unaffected tourists were left to assist the others and try to revive Rudakov.

The single bottle of oxygen available on the dive dhoni did not function, though there was a functioning bottle on the main boat, according to the diver. And crew initially attempted the 4 to 5 hour journey to the capital, Malé, before doctors from a local resort were called.

“At no point was I advised that there was a doctor at Rangali Resort, and that the resort was quite close by. This factored into my decision to stop CPR [on Kudarov], as it appeared that the nearest medical aid was over 2 hours away,” says the diver.

Rangali staff arrived about an hour after the accident, and were able to provide medical help and transport. But by this time, Roman Rudakov had died.

Contamination

It appears the accident was due to contaminated air from one of the boat’s two compressors, though the exact cause has not yet been confirmed.

But a traveller who toured on sister boat the Baani Explorer in January and February wrote on dive forum ScubaBoard, “We had maintenance problems with the compressor on the dhoni that necessitated trips...to Malé to secure repairs.”

The traveller added: “Of sixteen people, outside of the crew, on board… nine [suffered] symptoms [such as] nausea, diarrhoea, headache and upset stomach...The [dive] dhoni tied up to the side of the Baani that exhausted the fumes from the generator…an extremely dangerous configuration for carbon monoxide gases...you could see and smell the exhaust rising from the back of the boat. A recommended CO2 detector is missing from the Baani.”

Meanwhile a Maldivian dive instructor of over ten years’ experience confirms “no one” uses the recommended carbon monoxide filters, instead opting for a cheaper model which does not filter engine gases.

Health And Safety

Regulations on diving safety were introduced in the Maldives in 2003, and a fine of up to Rf1 million (US $78,431) can be levied on any tourist establishment failing to match up to relevant standards set by government.

Licences, which are issued for five years, may also be suspended, and inspections are carried out on renewal of a licence, says the tourism ministry.

The ministry “tries our level best” to inspect resorts and safari boats each year, says executive director at the Tourism Ministry Mohamed Waheed.

But whilst diving accidents are rare in the Maldives, there is no overall regulatory body for diving safety and no enforcement of a diving certification standard, though individual dive centres may choose to register with organisations such as PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors).

Industry insiders say inspections are rarely carried out. “It’s up to the ethics of the individual dive companies,” says one. “But regulations should be enforced by law.”

Divers who accompanied Rudakov say they hope the police investigation will lead not just to a thorough examination of the causes of his death, but to an overhaul in measures to ensure diver safety.

“Let’s just hope we can get things changed for the better. At least then Roman will not have died in vain,” the diver says.



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