After failing to assess the competency of two pupils, a technical diving instructor has been sentenced.
The Diving Exercise
On 8th of July, 2017, two male students had joined the diving instructor to take part in a dive. It was a 45m dive off of the coast of Dunbar to visit a sunken submarine. The pair were taking part in a closed-circuit rebreather dive, which is more technical than scuba diving. It also enables divers to reach greater depths. They were working to complete their Technical Diving International mixed gas closed-circuit rebreather course. They were also accompanied by a friend of the instructor.
The students had not completed all of the online courses required. The instructor then determined that the planned dive would be a fun free diving session. This would be instead of a training dive. It also allowed him to check the students’ abilities in water and provide feedback. This would be prior to enrolling them on the course and beginning training the next day.
The instructor determined that they would complete an assessment dive. This would be to a maximum of 45 metres, in order to assess competency. The divers entered the water and descended a shotline to 13 metres. At this point, the instructor’s friend disappeared from view. The instructor travelled up the line to the surface to check on his friend. His friend had abandoned the dive as his dry suit was leaking water.
The instructor then returned down the line. At a depth of 13 metres, he realised the students were out of sight. They had continued to the seabed. The instructor continued downwards but could not locate them.
Upon reaching the seabed, the students encountered difficulties and one became unresponsive. The other student made attempts to rescue him, but was forced to return to the surface for his own safety. The body of the first student was recovered by police divers during a search later on.
The Health & Safety Executive conducted an investigation into the incident. They found that the instructor did not conduct a suitable assessment of the competence of his students before the dive. The instructor had carried out an assessment dive, but it was not sufficient to measure the abilities of the divers and should have been at a shallower depth.
The instructor also failed to confirm the number of rebreather hours that the first student had completed. He also did not check each diver’s rescue ability. The two students should have been under supervision at all times, especially during an assessment.
The instructor pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) and Section 37 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. £2,300 in fines was issued. The company was dissolved in 2019.
After the hearing, a HSE Specialist Diving Inspector spoke. ‘This was a highly traumatic incident for all involved and a tragedy for the student and his family.Diving is inherently risky and particularly more so when divers are undergoing training and assessment.’More News