Monday 14 July 2008

Death - the ultimate media magnet

This is a website about getting that extra 5 minutes of fame, beyond the quarter hour that Andy Warhol promised us all. However, because of my involvement in the sport of diving and because I have posted a few thoughts on scuba diving dive fatalities, I continue to get letters from people looking for information about recent scuba accidents. Sadly I have to post another item about a diving death.

A diver has died in Tobermory, Ontario. I think that this is the first dive fatality of the year here in the province of Ontario. The Ontario Underwater Council will probably post information about the accident on their website. I did a quick search for media reports on the incident. There isn't much available and what I have seen so far has little information (which wreck he was diving on, name of the boat he was diving off and the club he was diving with (if indeed he was diving with a group).

I haven't dove in Tobermory for a few years. It is a long 5-hour drive from Toronto and when you are a single diver it is hard to get passage on a summer weekend dive boat. Clubs and shops book the boats months in advance. The town, located in a National Park at the tip of the Bruce Penn. is where Lake Huron splits off into Georgian Bay. The weather can be harsh in Tobermory (hence all the shipwrecks) and it is not unusual for dive boats to cut back on their trips because of high seas.

Still the dive community continue to visit Tobermory every summer. A number of hotels, B&Bs and campgrounds have sprung up to service the dive community. There is hyperbaric chamber in the town and a well qualified medical staff is in place. Dive fatalities are rare but do occur - probably one every two or three years. The waters are usual crystal clear and the shipwrecks (husbanded by the National Park) are worth seeing. What makes the diving difficult is the extreme cold of the water. Even in July a depth of 30 feet, the water temperature can be in the low 50s. The deeper you get the colder it gets.

Originally the only information that I had came from newspaper and radio reports, which, I now find are much different that what the Ontario Underwater Council has posted on its accident site. What follows is an excerpt from the Ontario Underwater Council followed by two samples of media clippings collected a day afer the accident.

Excerpt from 2008 Report on Scuba Diving Related Incidents in Ontario

Date of Incident: 2008-07-13
Summary: 53 year old Craig Whitehouse, of Niagara on the Lake, died while diving in Tobermory this past weekend. Craig was apparently a very experienced technical diver who was highly regarded in his group.
Apparently Craig was diving solo, on technical equipment (a rebreather).
The dive was planned to depths of 200 feet or more.
Craig surfaced at some distance from the boat. The boat was unable to move to expedite the rescue due to other divers doing deco/safety stops on the anchor line.
Craig received CPR but was pronounced dead a short time later. The coroner has reported the cause of death as massive air embolism.
The coroner is still investigating the equipment and will make other information available as appropriate.
Details to be confirmed as more information becomes available.

OUC Recommendations:
• Insufficient information to be able to make any recommendations at this time.
• Once more facts are known, OUC would appreciate representatives from Ontario’s
growing Technical Diving community contacting us to help ensure any recommendations drafted are relevant and applicable.

The following brief news story was broadcast on an Owen Sound, Onatario radio station dated July 14, 2008.

Diving death in Tobermory
Written by Manny Paiva
A 53 year old man is dead while diving at Tobermory.

Bruce Peninsula OPP were called to the diving destination in Northern Bruce Peninsula around 10:40 Sunday morning.
Police say the diver -- who was operating off a dive boat -- surfaced in medical distress.
CPR was administered but the man was pronounced dead a short time later.
The man has been identified as Craig Whitehouse of Niagara on the Lake.
The Canadian Coast Guard and Parks Canada personnel were called to assist.
A post mortem will be done today at the Owen Sound hospital to determine the exact cause of death.

A similiar, very brief, oddly written report appeared in the July 15th edition of the Owen Sound newspaper.

Experienced Diver Dies In Tobermory;

A 53-year-old diver who surfaced in the waters around Tobermory in a state of medical distress died Saturday despite attempts to save him.
Police say Craig Whitehouse of Niagara- on-the-Lake was an experienced diver and was part of a large group of people who chartered a dive boat on the weekend.
At the time of the incident, Whitehouse was diving alone, away from the main group, which was working with a dive master. The boat was anchored in 35 feet of water.
"He was off on his own, away from the group that was getting instruction from the dive master," said Staff Sgt. Brad Fishleigh of the Bruce Peninsula OPP.
"He was very experienced and they weren't in very much water at the time."
The cause of death is under investigation by the police, coast guard and Fathom Five National Marine Park officials. The man received CPR but was pronounced dead a short time later.

This Obituary was posted earlier this week

Obituary for Craig Ian Whitehouse

WHITEHOUSE, Craig Ian - Resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake, age 53, died tragically on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at Tobermory, Ontario. Mr. Whitehouse was born in Hamilton, Ontario on September 25, 1954, the son of Freda and Len Whitehouse. He married Deborah Ginter on May 17, 1980. Mr. Whitehouse was a member of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, NOTL, a graduate of General Motors Institute and Harvard University. He was a manager at General Motors, St. Catharines for 33 years. He was active in motor sports, sailing and scuba diving. Surviving are his wife Deborah Whitehouse, of NOTL, sister Zena Elizabeth and her husband Jim Barkey, of Stoney Creek, sister-in-law Judith Anne and Steven Wieneke, of White Lake, Michigan, and Little Brother, Chris Doucette. He will be missed by all of his friends and family. Cremation has taken place. Visitation will be held at the NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE- CHAPEL of the MORGAN FUNERAL HOMES, 415 Regent Street on Thursday evening from 7-9 p.m. A Memorial Service will be held at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, NOTL, with the Rev. Gordon Ford officiating on Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock. Interment will follow in the church cemetery. Donations may be made in lieu of flowers to Big Brothers Big Sisters Niagara and St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. Online guest register at 11167002

Deb has said to Matt that she would love to see the church filled to capacity with divers. Diving was one of Craigs many passions.

and finally from the St Catharine's Standard:

Scuba diver was group's 'unofficial' leader

Wife fondly remembers her soulmate, who died diving at Tobermory

Debbie Whitehouse called him her soulmate.
She also referred to her husband, Craig, as Mr. Wizard because he was someone who friends and family say could do anything.
"If the world really was flat, Craig, my soulmate and the love of my life, would have been working on a means to turn it perpendicular to the universe so he could live on the edge," she said in her husband's eulogy Thursday.
Craig Whitehouse died Sunday while scuba diving at Dufferin's Wall in Tobermory, a popular spot that boasts deep water and the remains of many shipwrecks.
The Niagara-on-the-Lake resident was 53.
Matthew Mandziuk, who taught Whitehouse to dive five years ago, said details surrounding his death aren't known. The experienced diver's equipment is being tested and police are investigating.
But Thursday evening as friends and family gathered at the Little Red Rooster restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake, most of the dozens who came together were remembering and celebrating Whitehouse's life rather than ruminating about what went wrong.
Mandziuk was with Whitehouse when he died. He and fellow divers Terry and Christine Davidson, who were also in Tobermory with them, said he was always there for them, every Wednesday night, when the club from Dan's Dive Shop met for their weekly immersions into the region's rivers, quarries, lakes or the Brock pool.
He was the group's "unofficial" dive leader, Christine Davidson said. Unofficial because Whitehouse refused to take credit or be the centre of attention, even when he deserved it, friends said.
At those dive nights, he would be anyone's dive buddy and especially their mentor.
"We referred to him as Mother Craig," said diving friend Brian Buchanan. "He was the dad. We were the kids."
Christine Davidson often introduced him to new divers as "our everything."
"I'll never introduce anyone else like that again," she said.
He was also the club's MacGyver, Terry Davidson said.
Any time someone needed something or had a conundrum, Whitehouse was there with a pen and paper, drawing up the plans for a solution.
Whitehouse was more than a diver, however.
He was a longtime General Motors employee, spending much of his 33 years with the company in supervisory roles. He was an avid motorcyclist, sailor, car buff, a Big Brother to Chris Doucette, handyman, welder, mechanic, metal worker -- a renaissance man who was more inclined to make a bolt in his basement than go to the hardware store to buy one, brother-in-law Steve Wieneke said.
"There was very little he did not do," said Nick Trach, who worked with Whitehouse at General Motors' Glendale plant.
He was also a great conversationalist. That's why John Kernahan, who works with Debbie Whitehouse at the Niagara Parks Commission, always sought him out at parks commission events.
"He knew everything," Kernahan said. "The guy was really a wizard, a genius, so you never had a boring discussion. He's going to be really missed, I'll tell you that."
The Whitehouses, both highly regarded in their professions, were also perfectly matched, he said.
"The two of them, the energy they had, it was like walking into a high-energy force field," Kernahan said. "You almost felt a buzz about them. They were great together, and I can't imagine them apart."
The couple met about 30 years ago when Debbie and childhood friend Susan McDonald attended a frat party at the General Motors Institute in Flint, Mich., where Craig, who also graduated from Harvard University, was studying.
Three years ago, the couple renewed their wedding vows for their 25th anniversary.
"In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, until death do us part," Debbie Whitehouse said in her eulogy. "I just did not expect this last bit to happen so soon after our renewal of vows ..."
Craig Whitehouse is also survived by a sister, Zena.