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February 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Get Your Weights Off First!

from the February, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Police have charged two diving instructors working at a dive resort in Phi Phi Island, Thailand, with negligence leading to the death of a new trainee diver, Indian tourist Alok Kumar Shukla, who was on his first scuba trip ever.

On December 30th, Shukla lost his balance after his first dive when his small dive boat was unexpectedly rocked by a large wave. He fell overboard into the water still wearing his 9 lb. (4kg) weight belt, which, presumably because he was inexperienced and not certified, he could not or did not remove.

George Kereit, speaking on behalf of the Phi Phi Scuba Diving Center, told the Phuket News, "When the incident occurred, the customer had returned to the boat and taken off his equipment. He was about to take off the weight belt when he fell overboard. Three people jumped in after him but could not locate him on the choppy surface, so the three people went with scuba gear to find him . . . It is standard practice in scuba diving that when you get out of the water, you go to a spot where you can sit down and your scuba cylinder will be secure. You then loosen shoulder and waist straps and get out of the unit. The next step is to stand up and remove your weight belt. After that, you can get out of your wet suit. So procedure-wise, it was normal. It was in this impossible five-second window while removing his weight belt that he fell."

Undercurrent disagrees. We say hand up your weights as soon as you make contact with the dive boat if you can and, never take your regulator out of your mouth or take your mask off before you are safely back aboard. Get out of your weights, whether on a belt or in integrated pouches, as soon as you can, preferably before climbing out of your tank rigged with its BC.

Kereit said that in the future, "non-certified divers will probably not be allowed to sit on the outside facing side of the boat."

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