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Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

Venice, Florida
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Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

I began looking for info on Sea Trek Cayman for our trip next week and found that a tourist had just died 2 days ago while doing the helmet dive.

That lead to several threads about 4 diver deaths from 2006-2007, and that Cayman does not require anyone to stay on the boat as a safety measure that most places require.

Could some of you experienced Cayman divers tell me if this is true? My husband's only been diving for 5 years and has only 50 dives. He did dive in Cayman during 2 other trips and thought the safety was adequate, but this has me a bit apprehensive.

Also, is there truth to the statement that someone from Ocean Frontiers said the extra measures were bad for business?

Thank you for your help.

Vancouver, Canada
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21. Re: Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

The Cyber Diver website is very entertaining (just became aware of it a few weeks ago) but it's sensationalist, like a supermarket tabloid and should be taken with many grains of salt. It doesn't report facts per se, but opinions, and seems to love to generate controversy. They may have good points but their "reporting" style makes it hard to take them seriously.

The number of diver deaths this year seemed a bit surprising at first, but could be explained by the sheer number of divers visiting the Caymans. The visibility is good, which may mean a disproportionate number of new divers. Also, as someone alluded to -- what was the age/fitness level of these people? There is an incidence of sudden death in the general population and if this occurs underwater it might be classified as a dive death. No judgement intended, but for skeptics please check out the DAN (Diver's Alert Network) website: divers have been getting older and heavier, and there is a disproportionate number of deaths/accidents among divers with an unhealthy BMI.

We're looking forward to our 1st trip to the Caymans soon and really look forward to the diving! We reserve judgement on the safety issue but ultimately we feel responsible for ourselves.

Grand Cayman
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22. Re: Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

I am a small dive shop owner on Grand Cayman. From the local newspaper report it would seem the person who died while doing the Sea Trek underwater walk suffered from some type of medical emergency. We will all have to wait and see what the coroner reports. As far as the other scuba diving deaths in Grand Cayman all of them were heart related. Remember scuba diving is a sport & requires a certain measure of fitness.

The best thing you can do if you are worried about you husband is have a doctor give him physical and make sure he has a healthy heart. Ask the company you are booking with if they have staff on the boat as well as in the water.

Steve Broadbelt is the elected head of the water sports committee and makes statements that reflect the consensus of the water sports association - thereby representing not only Ocean Frontiers, but the majority of Grand Caymans dive operators. Cayman law requires that a person stays on the boat while divers are in the water. However many operators, not all, prefer their staff in the water supervising the divers - especially on the wall dives. Having the staff in the water helps to prevent accidents and allows them to react faster to divers in distress. One man on the boat can only assist divers at the surface - usually after the accident has occurred, whereas the diver below is better equipped for prevention.

Many dive companies run small groups of 4 to 6 divers and the added cost for an extra member of staff to sit on the boat is too great. The only way to do that is to raise prices. Cayman has one of the best diver safety records in the world and that is because we guide the dives. I hope this has been helpful.

Cayman islands
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23. Re: Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

To Summer 05,

The post by Tom Cayman has provided most of the answers to your questions. The news posted by CDNN are plain and simply in a "tabloid format" and usually out of context. The divers deaths did happen however it was confirmed that they were due to health related issues (I am not sure about the helmet diving accident although the person was 62 years of age). We are too quick to point out fingers as soon as an accident happens. However the Caymans remain at the top of the list in regards to safety. Thousands of dives are made every year by many divers with no problems. Safety rules are made to prevent or help in the event of a situation. But by no means they are to be a crotch for the lack of skill, lack of experience or lack of good health.

The Caymans are very strict when it comes to "Log In" divers.

A certain level of competence is expected from a certified diver. Divers have a right and a duty to exercise their own responsibility for the dive they are about to take. Dive guides are not there to Baby seat but to guide/ assist the certified divers through a location. And my question to you is: When two certified divers are diving on their own from shore, who is watching for them? Should every pair of divers have someone stationed by shore before their are allowed to dive?

Summer 05, I am glad your are researching for your next vacation and encouraging your husband to be prepared for his dive experience (as it should be). However please, do not let a "tabloid style" news wire that seems to have a beef with the Caymans put a scary dent in your vacation plans.

All the best!

SergioDiver

Grand Cayman
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24. Re: Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

Regarding the 'lookout on boat' topic, I would like to add a few words. I own a small dive operation in Cayman that has been operating for 15 years. We have never had a death and never had a lost diver. Nor have our boats ever broken away from a mooring. Here's a few facts on the topic... This regulation has been on the books of the Port Authority for 20+ years, and only recently has it been announced that it will be enforced.

Steve, as President of the CITA, never said that 'safety' was bad for business; this is being misinterpreted. Steve and in fact all members of the watersports association are very safety conscious; Cayman has always been a leader in safety (and other matters) including having a substantial set of rules and regulations that govern all diving activities.

In our 15 years of business, we have found that having our 2 Instructors in the water with guests is the greatest safety offering that we can possibly provide. In the event that a problem occurs underwater, you cannot deal with it from the surface to offer assistance. In the event that a guest needs to return to the boat or surface from a dive early, then one of our staff members returns with the customer to assist them and make sure that they are okay. This is how we ran our operation for 15 years.

Now we are faced with having a 3rd staff member on the boats. This is an extra body that is a full time staff (per boat) that is needed for about 30 - 45 minutes a day, while divers are on the deep wall.

While safety is paramount to diving, the economic situation is in fact a reality also. Dive operators have not raised their prices here but fuel, insurance, medical, pensions and in general the cost of doing business has increased perhaps as much as 30% over the past several years.

So the question is this.... If Cayman has have been running an exceptionally high safety record in doing what we have been doing for more than a decade, then why the new rule? Dive operators now have 2 choices... a) keep a lookout on the boat and reduce the number of staff in the water (perhaps to no one if it's a small boat with only 1 staff on board) or b) hire another staff for each boat, plus an extra staff to cover holidays, sick days, vacation time, days off.

Option a) is a compromise to safety (in our opinion) and is what Steve was referring to. Option b) is a cost factor that in truth if you cannot afford, then you just cannot do it.

While it is not a customers problem to be concerned over the economics of a company, I believe everyone understands that businesses cannot loose money and stay in business. This is NOT a safety compromise in our opinion. An example... assume you have a boat rated to take 8 people out - 7 customers and a staff. Now you have to reduce your customers to 6 and have 2 staff. That's an increase in cost plus a reduction in revenue.

Cayman dive sites number over 300, they are relatively close together and there are lots of boats out everyday. We are not an 'off shore' diving location where boats have to run hours to get to a dive site - most dive sites are within 10 - 20 minutes of shore.

In summary, I would like to say as an 'insider' that the Cayman dive operators are caring, safety conscious operators and that we believe that this newly imposed regulation is problematic; we are working towards a solution, and hope that all customers will understand that we do not hide our problems but rather bring them to light to come to good resolutions.

As our customers, we value your input - have you felt safe, well attended too, looked after? Did you ever here in Cayman feel that you were not being given the best safety care?

Grand Cayman
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25. Re: Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

Thank you for your input. I am a recreational diver who has done my Open Water, many speciality courses, Rescue diver, to get my Master Diver and now have my Dive Master. All the courses were done in GC although we have been diving all over the world. GC has the absolute best in offering for new divers and more experienced. We purposely went back to do our courses and to have our children (and their friends) start and continue on. As an family that loves diving we try to pass along being responible and respecting what is taught, however, we have been in situations where we refused the offered dive as it was beyond our comfort level in other places despite having a bucketful of cert cards. It has never ever happened in GC. The level which you as ops offer is beyond your competitors around the world and you are to be commended. I know that safety is first and I am not at all concerned about newpaper articles that are necessarily on target. Thank you!

Venice, Florida
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26. Re: Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

I would like to thank everyone, especially Cayman dive ops for the extremely informative posts. My original post was meant in no way to offend anyone, just to further educate myself about diving safety in Cayman.

We love the island, and my husband is looking forward to some excellent dives. He's in excellent shape, has no medical problems, and is well aware that he is the one, first and foremost, who is reaponsible for his safety while diving.

That being said, let's put this one to rest!

Summer

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27. Re: Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

Thanks Summer05 for raising this and everyone who has contributed to the thread.

I was just in the process of researching dive operations for our trip in July. I must say I was concerned, and am still concerned, about there being no-one in the boat while divers are down, but I accept the views of the much more experience people who have contributed.

I must say that the other locations my wife and son have dived, the Red Sea and Cuba, there were always people left on the boat as well as divemasters in the water. However, despite this Cuba was noticeably lax on safety. Poor rental equipment, which often leaked at various valves and although there was someone on the boat, on one occasion that person brought the boat into shore while divers were underwater!!! Not much point in having someone on the boat, if the boat is half a mile away from the dive site!!

I know my wife and son are looking forward to their diving and will be using Ocean Frontiers, because they want to dive the East End.

PA
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28. Re: Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

Thanks to those that responded with valuable information. I appreciate it. (even if it's their first post---that's for the Reef's man in charge who apparently discounted my comment but will accept somebody saying they run a watersport operation--).

The question of whether two people diving alone on their own and whether they should require a lookout isn't comparable to the original question in my opinion. People are paying a company to assist them in the dive therefor it's reasonable to think if the law requires a lookout in the boat, one would be provided. If having a person in the water could solely save a person's life obviously that'd be the right choice but it hasn't prevented the few deaths(with due respect to those people) that have occurred regardless of whether it's tied to health. And if it saves one life in 25 yrs. I'd pay the extra money just like everyone else would when it's something important. We pay extra for travel, gas and everything else so it's no different. I don't think a company should compromise safety by scaring people into thinking you can't have employees in the water AND in the boat. Jet ski rental prices are high but it doesn't stop people from using them. The list could go on.

This was a timely post and hopefully people don't take lightly the sport of diving. 'Some' automatically push their kids into it just because they love it or it's something to do. My daughter decided on a boat(Red Sails) in GC that it wasn't for her even after getting certified back in the US along with a friend. They bought equipment and talked about it over and over prior to the trip. The friend still did the dive w/me but I told daughter that she didn't have to do it and life's turned out quite well without it.

George Town, Grand...
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29. Re: Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

scoobyPA, my apologies for the perceived slight, it was not intended, I'm just a website forum veteran of many years and my radar is normally set off by a first time poster linking to salacious sites.... but from your subsequent post clearly my heightened level of scepticism was an over-reaction :)

Re the dive operators with only one or two posts... I didn't post in reply to them as I know who each of them are and know them well... and had nothing to add to what they said... they are the dive experts, not me... right, enough from me on this.

Venice, Florida
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30. Re: Scuba deaths and safety measures in GC

Thanks Tim and Scooby. My personal views coincide with yours. Although my husband has only dived in Hawaii, Akumal, Playa del Carmen, the Great Lakes, and Cayman, he said there has ALWAYS been someone on the boat (in Cayman, too), and the dive ops he spoke with here in Ohio agreed that there should be. I would rather see the prices raised than forego the person on the boat. However, he has no qualms about diving in Cayman, as he has had excellent experiences there in the past.

Thanks, again, to all who contributed to this post. Hopefully, it provided us all with more information than we previously had.

Summer