Articles

When Scuba Diving Goes Wrong


From a group of divers forced to survive on
the open water to a young woman who drowned on her honeymoon, here’s what happens when
scuba diving goes wrong: Number 7 Japanese Divers
In 2014, a group of seven female Japanese scuba divers set off from the coast of Bali
in serene weather conditions. The group was led by Bali-based instructors
Saori Furukawa and Shoko Takahashi. As they were exploring the area, a storm struck,
seemingly without warning. Heavy rainfall and strong winds separated
the group from their boat and trapped them in a whirlpool together. One of the divers, 59-year-old Ritsuko Miyata,
drowned and instructor Takahashi became lost at sea. Furukawa and the remaining four survivors
were left drifting on the open water. They got through the first night in the ocean
by drinking from passing coconuts and trying to keep each other awake. At one point, Furukawa swam away from the
group and tried to intercept a tugboat but didn’t manage to get close enough. The current was too strong and she got separated
from the others. Three days after their ordeal had begun Furukawa
and the other four women were rescued. They were found on a large coral reef off
a small island called Nusa Penida, almost 19 miles from where they had started their
dive. Even though they hadn’t had anything to
eat and had only drunk rain water, all five women survived. Number 6 Jacob’s Well
Located northwest of Wimberley, Texas, Jacob’s Well is one of the most dangerous diving spots
in the US. So far it has claimed at least eight lives. With an average depth of 120 feet, the spring
is part of an underground drainage system known as a karst. The mouth of the spring is a popular swimming
spot. However, for those interested in scuba diving,
it’s the entrance point to a complex underwater cave system. The problem is that the floors of some the
chambers are covered in silt or fine gravel. Even the slightest brush of the flipper is
enough to stir up the sediment and obscure the diver’s vision. Navigating it requires specialized technique
and equipment. Swimming though the chambers sometimes involves
maneuvering through narrow passageways. Such was the tragic case of Southwest Texas
State University student Richard Patton. He was looking for a way to move from chamber
to chamber when he became stuck in a false chimney that looked like a way out. Number 5 Thomas Pritchard
Scuba diving accidents are a tragedy regardless of how they occur but, perhaps the worst scenario,
especially for a diver’s family, is when they simply vanish. In 2015, Tom Prichard had almost a thousand
dives under his belt when he became part of a team that dove to the wreckage of Andrea
Doria. The ship had sunk in 1956 after colliding
with the MS Stockholm in one of history’s best known maritime disasters. The wreck site soon became known as ‘The
Everest of Wreck Diving’ due to the number of divers’ lives it has claimed. The wreck has been slowly collapsing for a
number of years, with its top resting at 190 feet. Pritchard was tasked with attaching a mooring
line to the wreck. When his team surfaced they noticed that Pritchard
was no longer with them. The captain of the ship that had brought the
team to the site didn’t let the divers go back after him, fearing for their safety. The Coast Guard swept the area but Pritchard’s
remains were never found. To this day, nobody knows what happened to
him. Number 4 Bushman’s Hole
In October 2004, at Bushman’s Hole in South Africa, friends Dave Shaw and Don Shirley
broke four deep diving world records, after reaching the cave’s floor, almost 1,000
feet beneath the surface. More people have walked the surface of the
moon than have dove to such depths. Special technique and highly complex equipment
must be used to ensure that the divers survive the incredible amount of pressure. They must follow a rope or a guide line and
make regular stops during their descent so that they don’t suffer from decompression
sickness. During their first dive at the bottom of Bushman’s
Hole, Shaw’s illuminated torch revealed a body embedded in silt. It was South African diver Deon Dreyer, who
had lost his life to the cave’s depths 10 years prior and whose body had remained missing. However, it was too dangerous to recover his
remains at that time so they turned back to the surface. After several months of preparation, in a
high media event and accompanied by a documentary film crew, Shaw and Shirley made their attempt
to retrieve Dreyer’s body. Tragically, this would be Shaw’s final dive. Video footage from the camera mounted on his
helmet showed that, since their previous dive, Dreyer’s body had become loose. Shaw grappled with the body as he struggled
to put it in a bag he’d brought with him. At one point the head came off and peered
directly into the camera with its blackened goggles. As he got tangled in the line, Shaw’s breathing
became faster and labored allowing more carbon monoxide to fill his lungs. His movements became slower until they ceased
entirely. As Shirley approached the bottom rendezvous
point with Shaw, he saw an immobile light at the bottom. He knew something had gone wrong but experienced
a problem with his own equipment and knew he had to return to the surface. Then, at about 165 feet, a helium bubble exploded
in Shirley’s left inner ear which made him lose his balance. Even though he was completely disoriented,
Shirley somehow managed to grab the line as he was spinning into the void. His ascent took more than 12 hours, which
he spent in a fog of nausea and exhaustion, but he survived the dive. Four days after the tragic loss of Dave Shaw,
the line was pulled from the cave. The divers were only expecting to retrieve
equipment but then they saw Shaw’s body and, tied to the line, they found Dreyer’s
body as well. Even though it cost him his life, Dave Shaw
had managed to complete his objective of retrieving Dreyer’s remains. Number 3 Poliakov Oleg
A horrific accident off the coast of Pattaya, in Thailand, reemphasized how important it
is for divers to mind their surroundings at all times. 40-year-old Poliakov Oleg and an unnamed companion
were swimming in a proper diving zone. Unfortunately, when they surfaced, they were
hit by a passing speedboat. The driver, identified as 47-year-old Ritthirong
Phanla told the authorties that he was a carrying a group of ten tourists at the time and was
unable to stop the boat when the two divers suddenly surfaced. The speedboat’s propellers cut Poliakov
in half and his companion, who was also hit, remained missing. Number 2 Yuri Lipski
A blue hole is a large marine sinkhole that’s open to the surface. It’s typically created in an island or a
bank composed of limestone or bedrock. A blue hole located on the east coast of Egypt’s
Sinai Peninsula, is one of the most coveted diving spots in the world. The coral-lined sinkhole has a depth of about
394 feet. Despite its beauty, it has claimed over 130
lives in the past 15 years. One of the most notable deaths is that of
22-year-old Russian-Israeli diving instructor Yuri Lipski. He recorded his dive and the video, which
also captured his death, is reportedly still available online. After he reached the sea floor, at around
377 feet, he panicked and removed his regulator- the mouthpiece that divers breathe through. It’s believed that nitrogen narcosis might
have impaired his judgement. Nitrogen narcosis is a mental state that divers
experience at great depths, which may involve panic, paranoia, confusion and even hallucinations. To reduce narcosis and the effects of decompression,
deep divers use multiple stage tanks that are filled with trimix, a blend of nitrogen,
helium and oxygen. Lipski had just one tank with a mix of oxygen
and helium called heliox. Number 1 Tina Watson
In October 2003, 26-year-old Tina Watson, from Helena, Alabama died under strange circumstances
while scuba diving in Queensland, Australia. The woman was on her honeymoon with her new
husband, Gabe Watson, a rescue diver who was also her diving buddy. On October 22, the couple was scuba diving
at the site of the historical shipwreck Yongala. Within two minutes of beginning the dive,
Tina lost consciousness and sank to the bottom, around 98 feet below the water’s surface. One of the divers nearby later claimed that
he saw Gabe engage in an underwater bear hug with Tina as she was struggling. Afterwards, Gabe reportedly headed to the
surface as she fell to the bottom. Another diver took a picture of his wife and,
by chance, caught Tina in the background as she laid face-up on the ocean floor. The cause of death was determined to have
been drowning and evidence of murder started piling up against Gabe. The man gave sixteen different accounts of
what had happened to the authorities, none of which coincided with what the single eyewitness
had reported or with what his dive computer had recorded. The initial suspicion was that he’d turned
off his wife’s regulator, held her until she was unconscious and then turned it one
before letting her sink. The belief was that he’d killed his wife
for her life insurance. Gabe eventually pled guilty to manslaughter,
admitting that he’d failed to provide Tina with proper assistance. However, it later emerged that the woman had
had surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat two years prior to the incident, which she
didn’t mention on her dive application. Gabe had received his rescue diver certification
over a two-day course in Alabama thus he had no rescue and very limited open water experience. It was concluded that Gabe hadn’t killed
his wife but rather abandoned her in desperation to save his own life. The case against him was dismissed by an Alabama
judge. Thanks for watching! Do you know other cases in which scuba diving
went wrong? Let us know in the comment section below!

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