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February 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Aftermath of a Fatal Dive Accident

John Bantin tries to save a life but still gets attacked in court

from the February, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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When someone dies in a diving accident, the aftermath can even embroil those who were only doing their best to help. Although I wrote about this dive death, which happened 10 years ago, in my book, Amazing Dive Stories, I have never publicly disclosed the repercussions regarding the way the dead diver's employer -- and his dependents -- sought someone to blame for his death. Because I had been involved in his failed rescue, it seemed I was fair game, as were others. It still rankles that in trying to do my best, I got caught up in the legal repercussions.

David Graves died during a simple leisure dive in the Bahamas. He was on a press trip with other British journalists to write a travel piece featuring scuba diving. Originally, the Bahamas tourist office had planned for them to dive the famous Blue Holes, but their host, Jeff Birch, owner of the Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros Island, decided none of the journalists had the proficiency to handle those overhead environments, so he took them on a check-out dive. Graves was seen to run low on air and bolt toward the surface before being successfully intercepted by an attentive dive guide. That afternoon, they all went to watch a shark feed underwater.

I had attached myself to them when I discovered that my flight to Bimini, where I had intended to go, was over-booked. The press trip to Andros had been arranged by DIVER, for which I was its Technical Editor. During this second dive, there were 10 people in the water. I witnessed Graves swimming off from the group alone, while the two dive guides looking after the journalists were distracted -- one diver appeared to be losing her weight belt, with the possibility of a sudden and uncontrolled ascent, and needed the two guides to sort it out. Graves made a series of errors, probably due to overconfidence combined with a lack of motor skills he would have attained if he had gained more experience as a diver. He should not have gone off alone; he never made it back to the boat. Sadly, he paid for these mistakes with his life....

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