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Old 25-08-2006, 04:31   #1
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(2) USCG Divers Die in Arctic

Two Seattle-based Coast Guard Divers die in Arctic Ocean

Accoring to reports, two Seattle-based Coast Guard divers died while diving in the Arctic Ocean, about 500 miles north of Barrow, Alaska.

Lt. Jessica Hill, 30, of St. Augustine, Fla., and Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Duque, 26, of Miami, were assigned to the Cutter Healy.

The ship was on a scientific mission when the deaths occurred, according to the Coast Guard. Hill and Duque were on a practice dive familiarizing themselves with the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean, the Coast Guard said. The cause of this dive accident is under investigation. The 420-foot Healy is one of three polar ice breakers operated by the Coast Guard. Healy is primarily used for Arctic science operations under sponsorship of the U.S. National Science Foundation.

USCGC Healy (WAGB 20): http://www.uscg.mil/pacarea/healy/

From the XO’s Report (Aug.21/06):
”...We stopped for a short break in operations on Wednesday about 500 miles NW of Barrow following our successful completion of the westernmost leg of the current science mission. In taking advantage of our first real stop in ice in a month plus of operations, we capitalized on the opportunity to conduct a dive operation with our Dive Team. Unlike some of the press reports, the dive took place at the bow of the ship in a small area of open water. The dive operation was going pretty much as planned when something happened under the water while LT Hill and BM2 Duque were underwater together. When a problem was detected by the personnel supporting the dive operation, the divers were retrieved from the water. Immediate medical attention was provided and they were evacuated to the ship quickly where revival efforts continued for over an hour through the superlative efforts of many. Unfortunately, the efforts were unsuccessful and LT Hill and Petty Officer Duque were declared deceased just after 8:00 pm local time ...”
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Old 25-08-2006, 06:29   #2
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When a problem was detected ......

When a problem was detected ..... I read this last week and have been awaiting the followup story.

I guess divers are aware of the perils of diving under ice, but I'm confused as to how both experienced divers encountered "a problem" simultaneously and abruptly died.

What problem was detected?? Was this an equipment problem?

Rick in Florida
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Old 25-08-2006, 08:26   #3
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It does take but 60 seconds or less to drown.... Something that would kill two expericenced divers. I can think of several posibilites: Flooded full face mask - in water that cold, causes involuntary inhalation. Bad air - happens to the best on occasion. Marine life - the ocean grows big bad things under the ice. Hypothermia - a case of big balls, to much testosterone and not enough common sense (or impaired ability) to recognise it in yourself or your buddy.

Other things could be that one flipped out and caused a malfunction in the others equipment causeing both to drown.

Ice is a bad place to dive (really awesome vis, esquisite marine life, I'd do it in a heart beat with the right equipment) but pretty hard on the life insurance and life expectancy.... kinda like cave diving...

2 divers
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Old 25-08-2006, 08:46   #4
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Ice in the regulators?

I know some guys diving in Norway in the winter have had problems with regulators icing up. That is frequently the cause of fatal accidents up there.
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Old 25-08-2006, 10:29   #5
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The story stuck in my head because both experienced divers died. If it had been only one of them, it probably wouldn't have caught my attention.

I would have thought that USCG regulators would be ice proof? Also, with a 500 foot ship there I would imagine they would have found a hole in the ice to surface OK. They obviously had no problem retreiving the divers after the incident as they attempted to revive them. One can only assume that their bodies were intact or they wouldn't have noted that.

And of course there is that very mysterious..."....something happened under the water..." to contemplate.

Rick in Florida
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Old 25-08-2006, 14:24   #6
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Rickm, it is sadly *normal* for both divers to die when there is an accident. There's been a lot of research and comment into the safety of "buddy diving" over at least the past 20 years. Every diving organization AFAIK still teaches and sanctions only buddy diving. But, every safety report and accident analysis also concludes that when one diver gets in trouble, they frequently will panic, and then "attack" the other diver (i.e. steal their regulator to get air) or in some way get the other diver so involved, that both die. I've seen reports from DAN (Divers Accident Network, out of Duke University) and USCG that both drew the same conclusions.

I know a fairly large number of divers who believe diving solo is safer, and when diving in teams they still dive as "dual solos" rather than being overly concerned with "Where did he go?" assuming that a split up can and may happen normally. In American Red Cross lifeguard/water safety rescue training, they used to (no idea about today) teach you that if a victim is panicking, they can drown you. So you break off and get free, then re-evaluate whether to aid them again, or wait for them to pass out, or, even KNOCK THEM OUT so they can't drown you.

Since the only certifying organization that screened students for panic-prone behavior was NASDS, and they are now long out of business, there's good reason to dive alone rather than with a stranger. One would think/hope that the USN and NOAA screen for panic...but I just don't know the reality of that today.

Equipment fails, or people slip up and forget to maintain/set it. The USCG, and the routine hard jobs they perform, just don't get the respect they deserve.
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Old 25-08-2006, 15:27   #7
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Hellosailor,
NASDS merged and became Scuba Schools International. They do not screen for panic prone behavior currently (I am an SSI instructor). The Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC) coordinates and maintains the basic minimim dive skills that every diver training orignaization in the US must teach. Most organizations such as PADI, SSI, NAUI and YMCA all teach more than is required.

I also know a number of divers who believe that diving solo is safer, and in several respects I agree with them. Most good instructors I know these days teach that you have a buddy with you to enjoy the scenery with and help you get unentangled, etc..... They teach their students to be completely self sufficent and aware.

Teaching people how to take care of someone else (buddy or otherwise) is specialty or another level in diving depending on the certification agency. I tell all my students that if I could get them to take one class after open water it would be stress and rescue.

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Old 25-08-2006, 15:56   #8
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Thanks for the update. My impression was that SSI had acquired NASDS, kinda like buying up the scraps not a merge of equals. Last I knew of SSI I had contacted them to obtain a replacement for my C-card, which looks very much like it went through the Punic Wars. I said, all I want is to replace the card. they said no, all records were lost in a fire, I'd have to mail in my original not a copy, and then pay something like $45 for a new microfiche card. Nice concept, but that many years ago $45 still bought a nice dinner for two or fifty gallons of gas, so I said no and goodbye.
Does SSI still want "dinner for two" for C-cards?
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Old 26-08-2006, 03:01   #9
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Lt. Jessica Hill (30, of St. Augustine, Fla.) swears in Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Steven Duque (26, of Miami, Fla.) during a re-enlistment ceremony the week of July 30 / 06 on forecastle of the Coast Guard polar icebreaker “Healy”. Both died in an accident Aug. 17, while performing dive operations.
(Official Coast Guard Photo) http://www.cruisersforum.com/gallery...p?i=2365&c=510


The Coast Guard (Aug. 18) had conflicting information about what the two divers were doing when they were killed. In the late afternoon, Coast Guard officials said the two died during a "familiarization dive" for cold water at the bow of the ship.

Earlier in the day, Coast Guard officials had said the two died during a routine shallow-water dive to inspect the ship's rudder.

ALCOAST 440/06
COMDTNOTE 5101
SUBJ: SAFETY STAND DOWN FOR ALL COAST GUARD DIVE OPERATIONS
A. OPERATIONAL RISK MANAGEMENT, COMDTINST 3500.3 (SERIES)
B. CG DIVING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES MANUAL, COMDTINST M3150.1B
C. U.S. NAVY DIVING MANUAL, SS521-AG-PRO-010 (NOTAL)
D. SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH MANUAL, COMDTINST M5100.47
1. AS WAS ANNOUNCED BY THE COMMANDANT LAST WEEK, TWO CGC HEALY
SHIPMATES WERE FATALLY INJURED WHILE CONDUCTING DIVE OPERATIONS. AN
ONGOING INVESTIGATION INTO THIS TRAGIC MISHAP HAS NOT YET
DETERMINED ITS CAUSE.
2. UNTIL THE CAUSAL FACTORS OF THIS MISHAP CAN BE DETERMINED AND
MITIGATED, COMMANDER, PACAREA HAS SUSPENDED ALL ICE DIVING
OPERATIONS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
3. AS A SECONDARY MEASURE, COMMANDING OFFICERS OF ALL CG UNITS WITH
DIVE CAPABILITY ARE HEREBY ORDERED TO CONDUCT A ONE DAY SAFETY
STAND DOWN OF DIVE OPERATIONS NO LATER THAN 8 SEP 06, AND REPORT
ITS COMPLETION TO THE CHAIN OF COMMAND.
4. THE SAFETY STAND DOWN SHALL INCLUDE A REVIEW OF ALL ABOVE LISTED
REFERENCES TO INCLUDE:
A. OPERATIONAL RISK MANAGEMENT PROCESSES.
B. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF DIVE TEAM MEMBERS.
C. SURVEY/INSPECTION OF ALL DIVE EQUIPMENT.
D. CG AND UNIT STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES.
E. DIVE SAFETY PROCEDURES/GUIDELINES.
F. EMERGENCY RESPONSE PROCEDURES AND REPORTING.
G. SPECIAL OPERATIONAL CONSIDERATIONS IN HAZARDOUS ENVIRONMENTS.
H. ANY OTHER SPECIAL OPERATIONS PARTICULAR TO UNIT.
5. POC: MR. KEN WARD, COMDT (G-RPC) AT (202)267-0019, OR CDR P. F.
COOK COMDT (CG-1134) AT (202)267-6863.
6. INTERNET RELEASE AUTHORIZED.
7. VICE ADMIRAL ROBERT J. PAPP JR, CHIEF OF STAFF, SENDS.
BT
NNNN
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Old 26-08-2006, 20:13   #10
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Well, as commonplace as you guys make this sound, it's obvious that the Coast Guard isn't happy that 2 divers died, or with the reason they died.

Good for them

Rick in Florida
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Old 26-08-2006, 20:33   #11
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Rick, I don't think any of us made anything about this commonplace--except for the fact that WHEN divers die, they tend to die in teams. Obviously military divers are not expected to die on routine maintenance and training missions.

As to the USCG being unhappy....a one-day stand-down and having the dive officers "read the books" to their crews, sounds a whole lot like "cover your ass" and nothing really substantial. But the public wants "now" not substantial. No doubt a full investigation will be taking place but may take weeks or months to find out what really might have happened. When and if there's an answer, and either training or equipment or procedures change...that's what counts. And it could be that nothing will change and the deaths will be filed under "**** happens". One breakdown, one panic, that's all it takes in ice diving.

All the more reason to give proper credit to the folks who sign up for the job in the first place, knowing that's part of what they are signing up for.

I'd be more interested to find out if these were divers who knew each other, had worked as a team, and trusted each other. Or, were simply two rookies thrown together--which is the dangerous part of buddy diving.
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Old 26-08-2006, 22:19   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor

As to the USCG being unhappy....a one-day stand-down and having the dive officers "read the books" to their crews, sounds a whole lot like "cover your ass" and nothing really substantial.
It's common military practice when some event like this or an aircraft accident to stand down to make a quick check of equipment and procedures to see if something is common and easily recognized. It would be a unmitigated disaster to send another person or group down with a compromised oxygen batch from the same source as the one the deaths occured. A safety day immediately focuses participants on their equipment and procedures.
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