Diving 'experts' .... not ready

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Diving 'experts' .... not ready

Post: # 1198Post falkor
Sun Aug 13, 2006 6:34 pm

Image The Times August 12, 2006

Diving 'experts' not ready for the deeps
By Will Pavia

Too many novices who gained qualifications on holiday are not prepared for more dangerous British waters

...... IN GLOOMY waters off the coast of Cornwall, Kerry Sale lost her grip on the diving line.

Before that day in June last year, she had completed four dives in the calm waters of a disused Midlands quarry.

Then, armed with an Open Water Diver certificate from the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (Padi), she travelled to the South Coast with a diving instructor and a friend, Mark Jackson, for a weekend exploring sunken wrecks.

“If I’m doing something I tend to follow the rules,” she told The Times. “A Padi instructor suggested that we dive the wrecks. It never occurred to me to say, ‘Will it be all right?’ ” But rolling off the back of the boat on her second dive that day, she felt unprepared for the dark waters and currents that swept over the James Egan Layne, a merchant ship that had been sunk by a U-boat’s torpedo in 1945.

Ms Sale ran short of oxygen. “As I was ascending, I got separated from Mark,” she said. “I just lost control.”

Mr Jackson, 41, the head of a Nottinghamshire building company, jettisoned his weights and made a rapid break for the surface to call for help. Having done so, he fell unconscious. He had ascended too fast. Air trapped in his lungs had formed bubbles in his blood, and he died of an embolism.

This week the story was retold in a coroner’s court in Plymouth, together with the tales of the deaths of two other relatively inexperienced divers.

Ms Sale, 38, was told that she should not have been in the water and was lucky to be alive.

Mr Jackson was said to have been overweight, and suffering from high blood pressure, asthma and depression, which he had failed to declare on his Padi medical form. He had been drinking the night before.

At a second inquest a novice diver, 64, was said to have died after surfacing too fast, and at a third, a builder, 40, who had been diving for a year, was said to have mixed up his air supply tanks. Both had also been drinking the night before. The coroner, Nigel Meadows, said he hoped that the hearings would serve “as a warning to all the schools and novice divers”.

Two expert witnesses at the hearing were less cautious in criticising the set-up of what is one of Britain’s fastest growing sports. PC Peter Tapper, a diver for Devon and Cornwall Police, said that too many novices took short courses on holiday, in calm clear waters, and returned thinking themselves fully qualified for the colder, rougher, darker waters of Britain. Philip Bryson, the head of the Diving Diseases Research Centre in Plymouth, said that British training bodies had streamlined their courses to compete with Padi, the world’s largest diving training organisation. “We have people presently diving who feel they are advanced but have no experience whatsoever. The diving community needs to be totally re-educated.”

Ms Sale has not dived since that day in June.

Mr Jackson’s widow, Julie Jackson, a mother of four, told The Times: “He had dived in Kos, and in Florida and Egypt. I thought he was pretty experienced until I listened to the expert witness, who doesn’t call anyone an expert until they have done 200 dives. I think the training organisations need to tighten up.”