Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Death at Lau Lau Bay

The news papers and TV are reporting on a "SCUBA" diving death at Lau Lau Bay on Saturday. The Tribune here, the Variety here.

From these reports and a few discussions with people privy to more direct information than I it appears that the lady had either entered the water and was at the surface before deciding not to go down or that she never actually entered the water but was preparing to do so just before canceling her dive because of chest pain.

It also appears she did not make it all the way back onto the beach before collapsing and in fact was assisted from the water to the beach by the instructors where CPR was preformed.

Although extremely unfortunate this does not appear to be a "SCUBA" diving death beyond the possible contribution of physical exertion required to don a tank and walk to the edge of the reef. I've heard the lady was in her late 50's and although there may have been heightened anxiety about diving and the exertion factor this diving death is likely a sudden cardiac arrest that has no more to do with diving than someone collapsing at golds gym and saying the tread mill caused it.

The other spin as reported by the papers is that the dive instructor or the shop he was affiliated with does not have a business license to operate dive tours. This has ramifications well beyond the SCUBA industry as the Department of Immigration and Commerce are sure to be involved. It has also been suggested that the accident may have been prevented if the divers were part of a smaller group and that the dive industry needs to do a better job in regulating it's self. Although I agree with the latter point in general the first is likely just not true in this case. Not much can be done to prevent an elderly person from having a heart attack whether they are part of a one on one course or a larger group. Likely a bigger factor in this particular death was the limited and difficult access to Lau Lau bay, a result of the horrible rode conditions which would make the trip quite long for emergency response teams.

With regards to the dive industry regulating its self it appears in this case that any set of regulations on diving would likely have been ignored just as the regulations for owning and operating a business were. It also seems to me a certain amount of the blame should be focused on how this particular "business' continued to attract divers, or why business was directed their way if they were not a legal entity and why there is no safe guard in place to identify and eliminate operations that don't meet even the most basic of standards.

1 comment:

Brad said...

Mike, I spoke with someone who had a bit of knowledge about the accident.

According to him, the shop is the one putting the spin on the accident to deflect blame from their own practices. The victim started drowning...or did drown...at which point the instructors pulled the victim from the water and started CPR. According to them, it took 1 hour for the ambulance to arrive and by then the person was dead. So the shop in question is placing the blame on the victim for having a heart condition and the paramedics for taking too long to get there.

Perhaps more disturbing was that I learned few of the dive operators have diving insurance beyond the regular individual DM insurance. And worse, the tour agencies misrepresent this to their customers and actually send their customers to the uninsured dive companies because they can make more money that way.

It seems like that kind of misrepresentation should be illegal.

Perhaps the government (or at the very least Marianas Dive) should start a verification program and only refer shops that are fully insured and have the highest safety standards. I remember once in California restaurants had to display in their front windows the score the city food inspectors gave the restaurant for cleanliness in the kitchen/food preparation areas.

Believe me, it affected which restaurants I would or would not eat at.