Police National Dive Squad Present Their Findings

By Dave Moran, Editor.

Bruce Adams, Senior Sergeant Officer in Charge Police National Dive Squad has been on the road in recent months delivering presentations in Wellington (15 March), Rotorua (4 April) Tauranga (6 April), Auckland (6 July) and Dunedin (28 July).

These presentations have been instigated by the police due to the 11 diver fatalities that have occurred this year. Readers will be aware that in the last two issues (153 and 154) of this magazine we have published some of the police findings and discussions regarding these findings and diver training. These discussions continue below.

Just over 120 people attended the presentation at University of Auckland on 6 July. I felt this was a positive indication that divers are keen to learn what the Police National Dive Squad has to say about what the factors were that lead to these fatalities.

On viewing Facebook comments by various people after the presentation, I thought Fiona Tarlton’s comments summed up the evening’s message to divers very well: “Tonight Dave Moran (Dive New Zealand magazine), his daughter Paige and I listened to the Police National Dive Squad. For me it was a good reminder to always dive with my knife; to check my neutral buoyancy at the surface so not to dive with extra weight; to carry my catch bag – and not attach it as it anchors you; always buddy dive and don’t separate underwater – share one catch bag together, etc. Already this year by July 2016 there have been seven eleven diving deaths in New Zealand – three were freedivers.”

Police National Dive Squad with key organising team (L–R): Constables Ben Pye and Seda Clayton-Greene; Lorna Doogan, University of Auckland Underwater Dive Club; Rhia Spall, Botany Bottom Scratchers Dive Club; Bruce Adams, Senior Sergeant Officer in Charge Police National Dive Squad and Sergeant Geoff Bray.

Police National Dive Squad with key organising team (L–R): Constables Ben Pye and Seda Clayton-Greene; Lorna Doogan, University of Auckland Underwater Dive Club; Rhia Spall, Botany Bottom Scratchers Dive Club; Bruce Adams, Senior Sergeant Officer in Charge Police National Dive Squad and Sergeant Geoff Bray.

Below we present the top 10 recommendations from Police National Dive Squad based on their investigations into 57 diving fatalities between 2006 and 2016. These are based on the most common factors that contributed to deaths.

To view a full list of factors view the graph in the J/J issue – page 38.

Top 10 Recommendations based on Fatalities 2006–2016

  1. Dive with a buddy
  2. Dive fit & healthy
  3. Dive correctly weighted
  4. Complete pre-dive equipment tests to detect faults
  5. Don’t dive with faulty equipment
  6. Surface with at least 50 Bar
  7. Dive to your limits/qualifications
  8. Carry a dive knife
  9. Service your gear annually
  10. Have a dive plan that includes emergency procedures.

 

Reader comments relating to comments in the April/May issue

Dear Dave,

Well… the fingers are out aren’t they? It seems to me that the old scapegoat game of “let’s blame the money-grabbing dive industry or training agencies” is back in vogue. The recent spate of dive fatalities is without doubt a terrible cost for all involved. The loss to family, whanau and friends is only conceivable by those who have suffered a similar pain, and no words, nor actions, can ever fill the void or take way the sorrow. Only time, and the love and support around those left behind, can slowly help – but the scars will always remain.

However, playing the blame game helps no one. To have people say that today’s training standards are to blame is like saying that people have more car accidents because we let them drive sooner and with less time under supervision. People crash cars because they drive too fast, ignore safety rules, drive without WOFs or even without licences and use a myriad of alcohol and drugs. I don’t hear people pointing fingers at the NZTA and saying we need more compulsory driving lessons, or longer learner driver supervision.

The comment in the last issue (Diving Fatalities, issue 154, page 37) “…dive training requires a serious shake up otherwise this concerning trend in dive deaths will continue.” is possibly the largest piece of tripe I have ever been asked to swallow. What a load of old cod’s wallop! This attempt to throw back to the ‘good old days’ is just as sensible as invoking we use horse and cart or the Model T. Dive training has moved into the modern world because that is where the diver lives… in the modern world.

Yes, dive training has changed. We can agree on that. But it has become modular. Instead of six weeks in the pool and at least six ocean dives (yaaa… memories of my NZUA course) where physical prowess and stress testing were standard, we now have a progressive curriculum that caters to a wider sphere, and opens up the joys of the underwater world to so many more. We have in fact become more professional, more inclusive and more flexible to different divers’ interests.

Yes, an Open Water course today is not as demanding as it was 20–30 years ago. Do you know what? That is a good thing! We get more people into the sport now, more divers keen to protect the marine environment, more divers to travel, more divers to support more dive operators. And we teach these divers the importance of the basic safety systems… pre-dive checks, good working equipment, keeping skills up to date, use of the buddy system, being dive fit and staying within limits. We also teach them the importance of CHOOSING to do more training, the importance of CHOOSING to do a Refresher update if they haven’t dived for a while and the importance of CHOOSING when, and when not, to dive.

So… what are all these finger-pointers wanting from the ‘greedy dive industry’ and ‘evil dive training agencies’? Do you want longer courses, harder courses, more skills on more dives, more classroom, more (Space missing)  swimming tests? Shall we bring back buddy breathing and the ditch and don?

The simple truth, especially if you actually read the great analysis done by the National Police Dive Squad, is that divers are dying because of COMPLACENCY! They dive without following even the most basic safety recommendations: they stay too long, dive too deep for their training; they don’t do gear checks and they dive with gear that hasn’t been serviced since the day it was bought; they don’t practice basic safety skills and buddy team procedures; they don’t do additional training or even refreshers after periods of non-diving; they don’t monitor their dive. And there’s more… but it’s all the same. The diver CHOOSES NOT to follow what they have been taught or they simply forget it.

So… what’s the solution?  Well… if the finger-pointers want the industry or training to solve the problem, then the best solution is a simple c-card that expires! Why not require divers to go into a store, redo a test, show a log book or do a refresher? I am sure THAT would solve all the problems… NOT! And if we’re doing this for divers, then why not motor vehicle licences? Or boat licences?

If you want to know the cause of the problem get your readers to go look in the mirror. Each of us are guilty. When did we last get our gear serviced? When did we last dive? When did we speak to our buddy about doing some skills practice? When did we last pull out our Open Water course manual and review the basics? When did we last actually run through a dive plan with our dive buddies?

Divers will continue to die, nothing will stop that. Just like motor vehicle accidents, the only way to stop them is to stop driving! No one wants to stop diving. What we want to do is make divers more aware that they are responsible for their own safety. It is up to each diver to ensure they are prepared for the dive they are planning, and that their dive buddy is also prepared. Only this will reduce the number of accidents.

So, if you want to wave fingers… turn your hand around and point back at yourself! The only way to overcome complacency is with the right attitude, and only we can change our attitude!

Richard Taylor
TDI/SDI Instructor Trainer

Thanks Richard for your in-depth letter. You sure have the bull by the horns! You bring up some good points. As an ‘old’ diver who still loves his diving after 50 years I would enjoy a debate re some of your reasoning! To get your blood pressure up a little, I have just noted a few points as page space allows!

“more divers to support more dive operators”

The dive industry should be one of the most profitable business on the planet but sadly it’s not. Just note the number of dive shops now compared to 10–20 years ago. I would also guess if 100 people did the Open Water (OW) course today that in two to three years maybe 10 would still be diving. Why is that?

“We also teach them the importance of CHOOSING to do more training”

Recently my daughter HAD to do an Advanced OW Diver course. She was sick of being told that she could not dive deeper than 18m when diving with a dive operator.

I asked her, “How did the course go? What did you learn?” She laughed. “Well dad there were question like, ‘what do you call the front of the boat? What is the toilet called?’” – Really!

She said, “My OW course was much better conducted – in a classroom environment. After taking the web-based Advanced course and a few basic dives I didn’t feel safer or more competent or that it had added to my knowledge or skill level.” – Really!

“Did you learn about decompression without using a computer?”  – “Just a light brush-over – like you are given the impression from the instructor: ‘who needs to know that stuff when you dive with a computer?’” – Really!

“Could I look at your instruction manual? I asked. “Oh, I don’t have one; that cost an extra $80 or so. It’s accessible online, I think for a year, then after that I have to pay more to view it.” – Really!

I would have thought after parting with $750 you would have received a printed manual that you could refer to without paying more dollars!

“Dive training has moved into the modern world because that is where the diver lives… in the modern world. […] Do you want longer courses, harder courses, more skills on more dives, more classroom, more swimming tests? Shall we bring back buddy breathing and the ditch and don?”

Yes, Richard it is a modern world but do people feel competent/safe in the water after their FIRST dive course? I think the dive industry had dumbed down the OW course so much that people just do not feel competent/safe/relaxed in the water – and parting with more dollars to do another dive course is a hard pill to swallow, so instead they go mountain biking, etc! I believe the dive industry loses big-time in the long term.

I would love the training agencies to release how many diver did OW, how many did Advanced OW how many did Rescue Diver, etc. It would be an interesting graph to view. I bet it points down sharply!

Richard I had better stop otherwise  YOU may never have a quiet wine with me ever again!

I love your enthusiasm and dedication to the dive industry, Richard. You are one of the lucky ones – you were TURNED ON to diving back in the day and you are still 100% passionate about the sport. May it long continue mate.

All the best, regards
Dave Moran, Editor.

PS There are good instructors out there. But they have a training programme/process to go through to have a person certified as an OW diver, etc. There are instructors who go the extra mile to turn their students onto diving. We need more of them in the industry.