My wife, Kimberly, and I took our first dive from the diving boat, Galapagos Aggressor II, off the coast of the Galapagos Islands today. We made the first dive of our trip in a strong current. Unfortunately, tragedy struck as a young schoolteacher from Texas, about 25 years of age, who was part of our diving group, drowned during her dive. My heart goes out to everyone who knew and loved her. I offer my deepest condolences to her parents and her closest family members.
Our dive was off the eastern tip of North Seymour Island. We began the dive 100 yards away from shore at about 8 this morning in calm seas. In-water visibility was about 60 feet. Kimberly and I came up after 30 minutes. We knew when we came up that the young woman was missing. We had not seen her for about 15 minutes at that point. The dive master, who was in charge of our group, had already been looking for her for about 10 or 15 minutes.
We searched the surface for hours. During that time, there was also an aerial search. Many other boats and the Ecuadorian Coast Guard also joined the search. Eventually, we returned to the original dive location. Our dive master led a team of more experienced divers to search the bottom of the ocean. There, they found her body. I’m not even sure her family has been notified yet. The crew and passengers, us included, are still in a state of shock from this heartbreaking tragedy.
This terrible incident has gotten me thinking about diving safety and awareness. We don’t know exactly what happened here and how the young woman drowned. However, it is important that anyone who attempts scuba diving or wants to attempt scuba diving is aware of what they are getting into and prepare themselves appropriately.
Witnessing this sad event first hand was shocking to say the least because scuba diving is generally a safe sport. The fatal accident rate for scuba diving is about one death per 200,000 dives. This means that even to be inside the chance of having a fatal accident, statistically, you would have to dive 12 times a day, every day without any breaks. According to experts who research scuba diving accidents, the most common causes of these accidents are cardiac arrest and drowning because of diver error or inexperience.
However, scuba accidents can be prevented by understanding some basic facts. The most severe dive-related injuries happen to beginners. To be safe, it is important that you always dive within the limits of your experience and level of training. Here is some more good advice from the American Academy of Family Physicians. Never hold your breath while ascending. During descent, gently equalize your ears and mask. Never try a dive you are not comfortable with. Familiarize yourself with local tides and currents. Never panic underwater. If you become confused or afraid during a dive, stop, try to relax and think it through. Never dive without a buddy or without a plan.
Once again, our hearts go out to the young victim’s family. They will certainly be in my thoughts and prayers.