The other day, someone asked me why should they get a tag? The answer, I told them, goes back to a dive trip I took a few years ago to Cozumel in Mexico.
WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN
A SAFE ADVENTURE
In 2011, I went diving in Cozumel. We were staying at a very nice resort on the beach and the trip included 3 boat dives/day. A lot of the diving in Cozumel is drift diving where you drift along the reef while the boat follows along watching the air bubbles break the surface. In our case, the dive operator had a nice boat that had the usual safety equipment on board including a First Aid Kit and Emergency Oxygen. But the most important piece of safety equipment that they had on board that day proved to be a cell phone. The sea was a bit rough on the day in question. After lunch, we traveled about 30 minutes to the 3rd dive site of the day. We would have gone further, but the wave action was really increasing and the Boat Captain decided to dive a site that was no further away than he had already travelled. Of course getting into the water is usually not the complicated part. A giant stride off the back and gravity is all you need to ensure your entrance into the water. But when it came time to get out of the water, it took some real concentration and timing to grab the ladder and get situated on the first step. The divers on the boat that day were the usual mix of beginners, intermediate and experienced people with ages from maybe 18 through 60.
Most of the people had already gotten back aboard at the end of that third dive when several of us noticed that one person in particular was acting very hesitant about making a move toward the ladder and exiting the water. He seemed to be hanging back on the line trailing from the back of the boat and waiting. Due to the wave action, he was getting a pretty good ride while he hung on to the line trailing the stern of the boat. It appeared that this person, a male of about 35, was not really sure about the technique for grabbing onto a ladder when the boat is pitching up and down in a good swell. His dive buddy had already gotten out of the water and had moved to a spot away from the stern of the boat to remove their tank and equipment.
THE UNFORTUNATE HAPPENED
Finally the guy still in the water made a move towards the ladder. After a pretty good struggle he managed to emerge from the water and onto the back of the boat. The crew on the boat was helping him move forward when he took 2 steps and immediately collapsed like a sack of potatoes. He was not unconscious but he was also not coherent. Just sort of moaning.
This initiated a flurry of activity with the crew quickly removing the guy’s equipment and unzipping his wet suit. The other two or three divers still in the water, were encouraged to get out quickly and smartly. Immediately the crew and captain began to assess what was wrong with the injured diver. They asked if anyone had seen him hit his head on the latter or boat during his exit. No one had seen this happen. They checked his air gage and found that he still had nearly 750 psi left in his tank. His dive computer showed that his maximum depth had only been around 70 feet and his N2 loading was not significant.
His dive buddy confirmed that they had stopped at 15 feet for 3 minutes and that his ascent was not abnormal. Unfortunately the dive buddy was not much of a source of information because they had only just met that morning on the boat. The dive buddy said that the guy did not appear to be struggling during the course of the dive.
The Boat Captain brought over the emergency oxygen and they started giving the guy oxygen. About 30 seconds after this, the guy vomited into the mask. This caused several other people on the boat to also vomit and now the captain and crew really started to look unhappy.
At that point, the captain pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number on the side of the box that held the emergency oxygen tank and mask. They had purchased this equipment from DAN and the DAN phone number was right there, available for the Captain to call immediately. The person who answered the phone at DAN began to assist the Captain in trying to figure out what would be the best course of action. Unfortunately no one knew much about this diver except his name which he had provided that morning on the dock. Without knowing much more, the person from DAN was only able to provide some very rudimentary advice about keeping him warm, and to keep him on oxygen. At that point, the Captain fired up the engines and we sped back to the closest dock where they offloaded the injured diver into an ambulance.
He never returned to the hotel while I was there so I have no idea what happened to him.