It happened to me

O-Ring Explosion

IHTM ORing Explosion2

Quick thinking saved a dive from becoming a disaster...

I was in the Seychelles, diving with a marine conservation project, and on my final day decided to go on a fun dive with two buddies through a local dive operation on Mahe Island. We weren’t the only people on the boat that day – there were eight holidaymakers on board too.

It was a glorious day and we headed to Turtle Rock dive site near the capital Victoria, where we jumped in. The dive was going according to plan, and I was enjoying myself. We’d just spotted about 15 eagle rays when I heard a pop, like a champagne cork going off.

Now, I’d been diving four or five days a week for the last 10 weeks or so. And on one of these previous dives, I’d heard a similar noise. I’d turned to see a mushroom cloud of bubbles rushing from another diver’s first stage. An instructor was close to the diver and gave him his octopus, and took him and his buddy to the surface. Back on the boat I found out the o-ring in the diver’s first stage had blown. In my log book for that dive I wrote that it was the closest to an emergency I’d ever been.

Back to our day of fun diving. I heard a pop and thought to myself ‘That sounds like an o-ring blowing’. I looked around me (it’s almost impossible to tell the direction of sound underwater) and sure enough, behind me there was a guy from the boat – a stranger to my buddies and I – and the air was rushing out of his pillar valve like an underwater volcano.

He was looking around confused – he didn’t seem to know what had happened. He was about to run out of gas very quickly, and his buddy was facing the opposite direction –
she didn’t even realise something was wrong.

I realised I had to act fast. I was 20m away from the guy (thank goodness for the fantastic viz in the Seychelles!) and I swam as fast as I could towards him, gesticulating frantically to his buddy and holding out my octopus.

When I reached him, incredibly, he shook his head. ‘No, I don’t need that,’ he was saying. I was insistent. ‘Mate, you really do!’ I thought.

And he did – by this time his buddy had realised what was going on, had swum over and was beginning to switching off his air.

He finally took my octopus as his air ran out, and after taking a few moments to calm myself down, I got his buddy to take over as air supplier. I suggested they should go up together, leaving me to return to my buddies.

To my astonishment, they ignored my suggestion. They continued the dive, both breathing from the one cylinder! It was about 20mins before we all went up.

Back on the boat, I was expecting a word of thanks for coming so speedily to the rescue, but incredibly they ignored the whole event.

The incident proved to me how important it is to be aware of what’s going on when you’re underwater. Quickly assessing a situation to see if your help is needed or not can be key – in this instance I could see neither the guy nor his buddy had noticed the danger, and the situation could have spiralled into disaster. I was in a position to act quickly and I did.

In such good viz, it’s easy to think you’re close enough to your buddy – but in an emergency, you need to be closer than you think.

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