By Dave Moran
In mid-October I spoke to Brian Schmidt, of Tairua Dive & Fishinn on the Coromandel Peninsula. He was happily telling me of his future plans for his business, and the enjoyment he and his wife Brenda were having with their new baby daughter Lacresha. Five days later, on Saturday October 17, Brian had his right leg ripped off above the knee, and his left hand badly injured, by an exploding Luxfer aluminium scuba cylinder in his shop. In the blink of an eye this familyâs world was changed forever. Others in his shop were very lucky not to sustain injury when Brian was blasted through the wall of his shop.
The Department of Labourâs Explosives & Dangerous Goods Division, a division of Occupation Safety and Health (OSH) have an investigation in progress as we go to press (see page 10). Recovered sections of the cylinder are currently being analysed here and by an independent party in the USA. The tank exploded while being filled; it was approximately two-thirds full when Brian went to investigate an air leak. Inter-granular creep cracking in the neck area of the cylinder is suspected to be the cause. As the number of aluminium cylinder failures increase – three in New Zealand in 1998 up to November 11 – a number of issues are starting to be discussed within the dive industry and OSH. The main ones are that cylinders over 20 years old should be removed from service; personnel who visually inspect cylinders should be tested/d on a regular basis; and containment facilities must be in place when filling cylinders to protect staff and customers.
Luxfer Gas Cylinders was established in 1898. They are proud of their safety record; their motto is âSetting the Standard Worldwide.â On their website at www.luxfercylinders.com, under âNews/Current Events,â you can read of another tank rupture in a Florida dive store; apparently New Zealandâs latest accident doesnât rate as news. Luxfer is defending their safety record, saying that less than 4,500 tanks out of the two million made from 1972 to 1997 have developed cracks. The Luxfer lawyers are doing what lawyers do best â admitting nothing. Luxfer have not yet had the courtesy to contact Brian or his family. Will Luxfer announce a recall of these tanks, or do we have to wait for another personâs life to be ripped apart?
I received a heap of flak from the dive industry for my editorial comments on aluminium tanks in the April/May 1998 issue. I quote from that editorial: âItâs about time the aluminium tank manufacturers got their act together and produced a cylinder that stands the test of time. The only problem is that from past experience, time is the only real test for any aluminium scuba tank.â I stand by these comments. Testing stations also need to play their part in detecting cylinders that have been misused and abused by their owners, or show signs of possible structural failure. Check your Luxfer tanks, especially if their specification is DOT E6498, or DOT SP6498. On behalf of all New Zealand divers, we wish Brian a speedy recovery. With his positive attitude I am sure he and Brenda will rebuild their lives and fulfill their dreams.
The Ngatiwai Trust Board are licking their lips in anticipation of a huge hangi, plus of course a bundle of dollars, if they can have the Poor Knights Marine Reserve reopened to fishing. I am sick of this bullshit. Iâve said it in previous editorials and I say it again: when it comes to the environment there is no such thing as âour right.â We are privileged to be living on this ocean planet and it is our responsibility to look after it and not plunder it under the guise of customary fishing rights. Ask anyone who was diving 20 years ago about the fish numbers they saw back then, compared to now. Enough is enough! Protect and nurture what we still have, and do not destroy it for the almighty dollar. The High Court should throw this greed on the dung heap where it belongs.
Congratulations to the Tutukaka Coastal Promotions Society for their efforts in making the sinking of HMNZS Tui a reality (see pages 38 and 39 for more details). The Tui sinking will have a significant positive impact on the diving industry in New Zealand. $130,000 has already been raised for the purchase, cleaning and sinking of the ship; $20,000 is still needed, and your donations to this worthy cause will be welcomed by all the divers of NZ. This terrific community effort deserves a big bouquet, but sadly thereâs a prickly weed or two in the middle. Certain companies which will directly profit from the sinking have already put together material promoting their future Tui diving trips … but have not donated even one cent. Itâs a bloody disgrace. I encourage our readers to support the businesses, charter operators and other groups that have contributed to the Tui.
Aussies win again! No, itâs not another All Blacks loss, but itâs a loss whichever way you look at it. Dr Simon Mitchell, our regular diving medicine contributor, has taken up the directorship of the hyperbaric chamber at Wesley Hospital in Brisbane in early November. The good news is that he will continue to write his column for us, and Iâm sure his repertoire of Aussie jokes will blossom for our enjoyment at next yearâs Kodak Oceans photographic evening where he will once again be MC. Simonâs diving medicine knowledge has been invaluable in recent years at the Navyâs decompression unit in Auckland. On behalf of all New Zealand divers, especially those who have received the benefit of his skills, we wish Simon all the best in his new and challenging position in the sunshine state of Queensland.
Christmas holidays are almost here! Lets go diving – it’s still one of the worlds safest sports.
- Dave Moran