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Scuba Diving Article of the Month

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Out Of Air

On the first dive, my gauge was not working so I followed the instructor.
For the 2nd dive, it seemed to work again and indicated that the tank was filled at 200bars.
So, I went without worrying too much. I regularly checked my level of air and did the 100bars sign to the instructor.
A few minutes later, nothing!! I breath but nothing, can not get air.
I initially thought I was panicking so I calmed down and tried to breathe again... but still nothing!
At that moment, time became critical, I must make fast decision because I had no more air. I looked up to see if the surface was far ... can be 12m.
I swam to the teacher, made the sign out of air. I did not make the right sign so he did not understand me and smiled!! I did again .. ditto!
So I made my decision and grabbed his octopus, put away my regulator and put his octopus in my mouth! phew! And only at that time, he (eventually!) realized there was a problem. We went back together at the surface safely. What an adventure!

I am pleased to have this experience because I learned a lot, and it ended safely.

WDR: the purpose of this story is not to judge but to draw all possible lessons and bring a conclusion and advice to avoid this kind of event from happening again. For this we suggest you to answer the following questions and to motivate your answer.
During one month the discussion will remain open for new posts and then will be closed.

1 / Is it normal to dive with a defective gauge when you know it?
2 / Who makes the mistake of diving despite this problem?
3 / Why the teacher does not understand the person? How it could have been avoided?
4 / Did the teacher had the proper behavior?
5 / Did the person had the right reaction? How would you have done in his place?


Conclusions and advices:

Thank you to all of you for your valuable comments. It seems we all agree without any doubt about the following rules:


Mistakes done:

- Divers is responsible for its own equipment and even in doubt should report the problem to the dive guide.

- Diver should not dive with defective gauge even though it apparently worked for the second dive.

- Dive center didn’t check properly the equipment.

- Diver should ask to review signs with the guide.

- Guide didn’t ask if the pre-dive check was done and if equipment was ok.

- Guide didn’t review signs.

- Guide didn’t detect that student was in trouble underwater.

- Guide and student were too far from each other.


How to prevent it:

1.It is NOT normal to dive with a defective gauge. All your gauges must be tested prior to diving. In case of doubt ask for changing it.

2. The pre-dive safety check done properly doesn’t allow diving with defective gauge. So follow the basic rules from the safety check.

3. Dive centre/instructor should test properly such item and remove faulty equipment for maintenance.

4. Both guide and student should revise signs prior to diving. It is a basic rule of safety!

5. Guide should always be alerted on a potential problem and not being too relax. Probably an incident training should be organized by agencies on regular basis. 


In terms of decision:

Student did well when she took the alternate air-source from the guide. However we think that with the distance between her and the guide (and the uncertainty of the next moves from the guide) plus the fact that she was at 12m, the safest way would be to go back to the surface at normal speed (18m/mn).

Alternate air source is the best choice if the distance between the two buddies is short (say around 2m) or if you don’t feel comfortable to go back to the surface beyond 18m (means you must have enough air to blow for 1mn).


Comments (9)
  • Al's Divig  - OUt of Air

    Glad you were not a statistic, hope you solved the problem, :idea: learn the correct signal, safe diving

  • admin

    A comment: all is written at the first person (I) to make it more realistic. It doesn't mean we made all these mistake.
    Anyway the sign learning is obviously not enough. What were the main mistakes in our point of view?

  • amyzengrace  - out of air

    1.It is NOT normal to dive with a defective guage unless you're suicidal
    2.a. Diver mistake for diving with faulty vital equipment
    b. Dive centre/instructor mistake for not removing faulty equipment from service
    3.Wrong signal instructor did not recognise till further actions taken
    4.Teacher had proper reaction until proper signal given... instructors aren't mind readers
    5. Person should never have dived with faulty equipment in the first case... since person is still alive, follow-up reaction appropriate... was instructor your dive buddy?
    "What an adventure"???? An adventure is an enjoyable experience... this was potentially life threatening

  • admin

    Dear Amy,

    Most of your comments make sense and I personnaly agree with you. However dont you think that instructor should make a revision of sign before going? (as aninstructor I always do this to avoid any misunderstanding) Did you know for example that the low on air has 2 different signs depending the organization your are diving with?
    Lets see other reaction...

  • amyzengrace  - short of air

    I absolutely agree that the instructor should have reviewed the signals before commencing the dive. I was assuming that he did and that the student/diver had forgotten the proper hand signal in the midst of his/her panic.

  • Liv  - Agree

    I agree totally with amyzengrace with addition of the signal revision. I've dived in various places around Australia and Asia, and there are always different signals - air levels and the safety stop signal I find are the ones that vary the most.

  • admin

    Hi Liv,
    Can you tell us a bit more about different signal for the safety stop? What are the most common?

  • Liv  - Safety Stop

    The two I mainly see are:
    thumbs up, five fingers then three fingers
    three fingers being held in front of an palm

    There's another one I've seen in Thailand, but I can't remember

  • love2dive  - Dive Signals

    Dive signals can vary from diver to diver, thus it is best to clarify dive signals between divers before the dive.

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