Tuesday 28 April 2009

follow up: dive fatalities in Cayman

man dies, friend writes to say his children having problems bringing him home - see scuba chatroom item after my editorial

The Cayman Islands tourist board might have a PR problem on their hands. Last month a government press release announced the death of the 58-year old American tourist. The report, printed below briefly explained the diver had been found floating in the water after going missing from Divers Down.
A day later the scuba web site CDNN posted a news item critical of the island's dive industry, their safety standards and their safety standard enforcement. CDNN does not create its own news stories, they repost news stories from daily newspapers (after removing the paper's name and the identity of the reporter and using their own names). The website has also named Grand Cayman as one of the ten worst scuba destinations in the world.
The issue spilled over to Scuba blogs around the world. There is a dramatic postings by someone claiming to be on the fatal dive (and I believe her based on her many posts), indicate that the victim went to a depth of close to 400 ft on compressed before making an emergency ascent to the surface. The poster was very critcal of Divers Down.
I have not dove with Divers Down, but, I have taken dives with almost all other dive shop operators. I have found their safety standards extremely high, and their staff well trained and very vigilant. Because of the sheer volume of divers they take out it every year, the dive masters have seen it all ... and are well prepared to handle emergencies. Although if the postings are correct, Divers Down's Dive Master, could face legal problems.
I don't know all the details to the latest death (the 4th this year on Cayman)
There have been close to 1,015 posts as of May 13 (and growing) on Scubaboard http://www.scubaboard.com/forums/accidents-incidents/283416-divers-dying-cayman-9-last-year-4-year-print.html?pp=50 most of it created because a person who says she was on the dive when the American went missing, was quite frank in her description of the accident. Her postings are critical of the dive master, dive shop and the Cayman Islands. Judging by the comments left by tech and professional divers, it appears that once the American diver headed down to the bottom, there was virtually nothing the dive master could have done to save him (if he didn't have Tri-Mix or four or five fill tanks hanging on the shot line) -- which a moot point because no u/w search was conducted by said Dive Master.
The poster -fosterboxermom - says "Yes I was on the dive, he was not my dive buddy he was suppose to be with the DM! He somehow went to 346ft. according to his dive computer. I did not see him because I choose not to dive to a 100 ft which was the dive plan. I stayed at 60ft with his fiancee' because she and he were both new diver's and she did not want to dive to a 100ft either. That's about all I can tell you at this point."
The poster went on to say "all I can say is the the shop was unprofessional. We did not get briefed as to saftey, there was only one person on the boat and the was the DM. He NEVER checked any of us to see if we were OK. This person had only done his second check-out dive the day before and the DM was aware of how new to diving he was. Half way through the dive the DM knew he was missing and chose to continue the dive without looking for the missing diver. Now you tell me who is at fault here?"
"This DM was unprofessional from the start. Telling jokes, dancing, not doing a safety breifing. Knowing that he was a new diver (the victim is reported to have been on his second open-water dive). Not budding people up. Not do checks on air, No OK signs at all just taking off and leaving everyone to defend for themselves. One minor that hadn't had a dive in a year. We all told him of our experience. A DM's responsibility is to guide us on a dive point out cool stuff and make sure we are safe and get back to the boat, end of story and if you can't do that then you shouldn't be a DM either"
I do note the age of the dead man is reported to be 58-years old. The victim's friend (who was on the dive) feels that he reached a depth of almost 400 ft because of Nitrogen Narcosis. She reports that the cause of death was "was not asphzxiation, it was the depth and the fast ascent that killed him ... The man was in perfect health, no heart conditions, lung, liver, stomache, respitory, nada, he was in great health! Autopsy confirmed that."
So far the dive shop has NOT responded to the growing charges of negligence. Too bad. They are getting vilified in the online court of the community that use their services.
I have been collecting dive death stats for the past 15 years and there is a notable trend that has seen older divers dying in the water in ever increasing numbers because of pre-exsisting health problems -- which is if one accepts the postings of fosterboxermom, this was not the case here.
No longer is it the bends, burst lungs or inexperience that is killing divers, it is the health of the person BEFORE they enter the water. Heart Attacks, especially in divers over the age of 50, is the most common factor in diver fatalities.
On Grand Cayman, most of the divers hitting the reefs each morning, are cruise ship passengers. 10,000 to 20,000 cruise visitors arrive on the island each day during the winter and spring seasons.
Staying for only the day, visiting divers have to get from their cruise ship, to the dive shop, into the boats, onto the reefs and back again before their ship leaves the island. As a result, there is a certain amount of assembly line dive registration taking place - divers show their c-cards, sign waivers, answer photocopied quiz about their health, pay their money, get their gear, and meet their dive master and safety team as they march onto their boat.
Obese. The infirmed. People with recent scars on their chests. All can dive provided they have the proper credentials and have signed releases and medical forms that say they are fit to dive.
It is a problem for the Caymans, and it is a problem for the scuba industry. Should training agencies require certified divers to be recertified after passing milestone ages? Should dive charter companies be more selective on who they allow to dive? Should Cruise Ship medical personnel be more involved in evaluating the shore excursion choices of their passengers?

The Following Item Appeared Today on a popular Dive Scuba Board

Not sure where to post this but, "Lesson's Learned" seems like the proper forum...please let me know if I should cross post it since I am a total Newbie here!

We found out Sunday evening a good friend and my daughter in-laws Dad lost his life in a diving accident in Cayman. Personally, I find it pretty darn sad when a family learns more about their loved ones death on the Internet then personally from the local authorities.
Not only are these kids dealing with the sudden death of their Dad, who is single, who left no Will, insurance or assets (we are aware of now), but, they are getting no help or advise from anyone (local authorities, American Consulate, etc.).
If anyone has had experience or knows someone who has dealt with a diving death in Cayman that is willing to share their experience with us could you please PM me...I hope this site has a PM feature.
My intentions are not to bring up old wounds but, learning what these kids should expect and possibly what one would have done differently had they had the chance to do it all over again. All these kids want to do is bring their Dad home and have closure. Any help would be sincerely appreciated.
Susie in Colorado Springs


Police name dead diver
Published on Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) has named 58-year-old Brendan Joseph Neilson, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA, as the person who died while diving in the Cayman Islands on Sunday, 26 April.
Mr Neilson had been visiting Grand Cayman with his fiance`. The RCIPS sends its condolences to the family and friends of Mr Neilson.
According to police, the 911 Emergency Communications Centre received a call at approximately 1:55 pm from a vessel, which was taking part in the fishing tournament, reporting that they had found a diver floating in the water off Dolphin Pointe, West Bay.
Moments afterwards 911 received a call from a staff member of Divers Down reporting that a diver had gone missing while on an organised dive. The fishing boat informed operators that they were coming to shore and performing CPR on the victim.
Police and medics responded to the North West Point Dock where the patient was met and taken to hospital. Unfortunately, Mr Neilson was later pronounced dead. Detectives are currently investigating the death and a post mortem is due to be carried out.

Fishermen find diver’s body off Dolphin Pointe
Posted on Mon, 04/27/2009 - 10:11 in Headline News

(CNS): A visitor from the United States died during a diving trip yesterday (Sunday 26 April) and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) says it has begun an investigation into the circumstances of the 58-year-old man’s death. The 911 Emergency Communications Centre received a call at approximately 1.55pm from a vessel which was taking part in the fishing tournament reporting that they had found a diver floating in the water off Dolphin Pointe, West Bay.
Moments afterwards 911 received a call from a staff member of Divers Down reporting that a diver had gone missing while on an organized dive. The fishing boat informed operators that they were coming to shore and performing CPR on the victim. Police and medics responded to the North West Point Dock where the patient was met and taken to hospital. Unfortunately, the victim was later pronounced dead. The man was on vacation in the Cayman Islands from Colorado, USA.
The RCIPS sends its condolences to the family and friends of the victim. Detectives from West Bay are investigating the death.

Scuba diving accident kills another Divers Down customer

CAYMAN ISLANDS (27 Apr 2009) — An American tourist died while scuba diving with Divers Down off Grand Cayman.
Authorities said the scuba diving accident victim, whose name has not yet been released, was a 58-year-old man from Colorado Springs.
Witnesses told CDNN the man disappeared while scuba diving with four other divers off a dive boat owned and operated by Divers Down.
At about 1:55 pm, after the crew of the dive boat called for help, authorities received a call from a sport fishing boat reporting that they found the missing diver floating unconscious in the water off Dolphin Pointe, West Bay.
People aboard the fishing boat started CPR but apparently the victim never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead after paramedics took him to a hospital.
Divers Down declined to discuss the accident, which was third diving fatality in 2009.
There were nine diving-related deaths in 2008.

Unsustainable tourism

Once considered the best scuba diving holiday destination in the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands have steadily declined in popularity over the past decade due to overpricing, overdevelopment, eco-unfriendly cruise ship tourism, marine wildlife harassment (Stingray City), coral reef degradation and increasing concerns that diving-related fatalities are linked to the failure of dive boat operators to comply with commonly accepted dive safety procedures.
Hoping to lure divers back to the Caymans, local tourism promoters announced last October that the government would adopt Florida's scheme to replace dying coral reefs with value-added scuba diving product comprised of scuttled U.S. Navy warships.
Promoters said they hope to sink the 77-meter, 2,290 tonne USS Kittiwake later this year.

Associated Press Story - Colorado Springs man dies in Cayman Islands

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Police in the Cayman Islands say an American tourist has died on an organized dive off Grand Cayman.
Police spokeswoman Deborah Denis says the 58-year-old man from Colorado Springs, Colorado, was diving with four other people when the outfitter reported that he had gone missing. His name has not been released.
Denis says a fishing vessel reported finding the body floating in the water Sunday afternoon moments before the company, Divers Down, alerted authorities. People on the fishing boat performed CPR on their way to shore before the victim was pronounced dead.
Story continues below ↓advertisement | your ad here
Denis said Monday that police are investigating as is routine for all water-related deaths.
A man who answered the phone at Divers Down declined to comment.