Healthy Experienced Diver Died while Diving with No Apparent Reason: A Classic Case of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

 In Education

If we hear news about a fatal diving accident, it usually involves equipment failure, illness, violation of a diving rule or a situation that makes a diver panic. But in a sunny day in March 2012 in one of the popular diving destination off the coast of Central America, a fatal incident occurred involving none of the factors previously mentioned.

PS. Before we proceed, we choose not to divulge the identity of the casualty, as well as the persons involved, as the investigation and court proceedings are still ongoing. 

The Casualty’s Profile: A Diver’s Experiential Record

As far a level of experience is concerned, one of our initial expectation is that the casualty could be a beginner, or perhaps, a newly certified diver. But in this particular case, the casualty is classified as an experienced diver, to which according to family and friends, has logged more than 200 dives. Further, the casualty has been diving and exploring popular dive sites around the world.

Although we could not find enough information to support the current level of diver certification and for the purpose of our discussion, we will eliminate the possibility of the casualty being a newbie. Further, we can confidently say that the casualty, regardless of certification level, has gained enough diving experience as shown by the number of dive logs made. Furthermore, unless otherwise medical records will show up, we can assume that the casualty is physically fit and that a normal diving condition could not significantly jeopardize the health of the casualty, unless otherwise, other superior factors arise.

The Diving Profile on the Day of the Accident

While the casualty was in one of the coast of Central America where amazing dive sites can be found, the casualty took the opportunity to explore its underwater beauty. Accompanied by one of the cousins and led by a divemaster, the casualty signed up for a local dive tour and head out for what was supposed to be a fun-filled day.

However, according to the cousin, although weather condition was fine that day, there was something not right. Given that the cousin’s level of experience was a newbie, problems pertaining to mask clearing and fogging was persistent, that it came to a point that the cousin and the divemaster needed to surface up and address the problem. They were confident to leave behind the casualty underwater granting the experienced casualty will wait for them and will be rejoined after the problem has been addressed.

After several minutes and the problem has been solved up in the surface, the cousin and the divemaster started again their descent. But as they approach the reef floor, the casualty was nowhere to be seen. It is not clear if the cousin and the divemaster proceeded with their dive or made a search to find the casualty. But what is clear in the initial report is that the cousin and the divemaster safely made it back to the surface while the casualty is still missing. It is also stated that, moments after the cousin and the divemaster exit the water, the body of the casualty was found on surface by a nearby diving boat.

The Initial Investigation and the Filing of a Court Case

Initial investigation of the incident has led the investigators to closely examine the claim of the divemaster. Disclosing to the authorities that just after 15 minutes in to the dive, the divemaster started to get sick without any apparent reason but continued with the dive.

Based on the divemaster’s claim, authorities now suspects the possibility of a carbon monoxide poisoning. Upon examining the air contents of the tanks used by the cousin, the divemaster and the casualty, all three of them revealed fatal levels of carbon monoxide. Although the initial report did not state the exact carbon monoxide content of the compressed air used by the cousin, the divemaster and the casualty, we can assume that it exceeds further beyond the figures prescribed by law, which in this case, should not be more than 11 mg/m3 or 10 ppm.

When the initial report came to the attention of the casualty’s family, they could not help but describe and compare their loved one sitting on a car in a closed room with the exhaust continuously running and just pass out afterwards. Upon knowing this, the casualty’s immediate family filed a case against the Facility who filled the scuba tanks and a world renowned diver training organization who accredited the tank-filling facility and happens to be the certifying agency of the casualty.

The family members believed that there was negligence committed against the defendants and that justice should be served to the life lost by their loved one. Some critics said that the case being heard is just a means for the family to gain money as monetary compensation is allowed in court rulings. However, the family pointed out that one of the reasons why they are filing the case is for dive facilities and diver training organizations to review their modules and standard operating procedures in order to prevent future accidents.

As of this writing, updates on the court proceedings and/or ruling is not yet out for the public to know. In the meantime, you can read our related article about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

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