2000-09 In Too Deep Without the Know-how

By Nick Fittipaldi

I went to Cozumel to try out my new Citizen Aqualand computer watch, which I could not wait to use. I planned to stay for five days so that I could do four dives a day with nothing to do but relax and test out my new watch.

I joined a group of about 10 divers on an afternoon dive. It was my third dive of the day, and I planned to take it easy. We entered the water at the same time and descended to the reef.

This was the first dive of the day for the others, and it was a deep dive, approximately 80 to 85 feet. I had positioned myself at the rear of the group so that I could watch them from above; I didn’t want to go as deep as the other divers.

Two young brothers, approximately 13 and 14 years old, were also diving at the end of the group. Their father was towards the front, just behind the divemaster. At one point, we encountered another group of divers, and the boys almost went the wrong way, but I pointed them in the right direction.

We were diving close to the wall, and I noticed one of the boys had descended pretty deep. I tapped on my tank to get his attention, but he ignored the warning (I found out later that he had no idea what the noise meant). Realizing he was almost 100 feet deep, I decided to get him and tell him to level off at about 50 feet with the rest of the group.

When I reached him, I got a hold of his alternate air source and signaled that he should come up with the rest of us. He apparently did not know how deep he was. I don’t know what made me check his air supply, but I was shocked to find that he only had 300 psi; his brother only had 500 psi. I immediately signaled to the divemaster that the three of us were going up. I had about 1,300 psi and a spare air in my BC pocket for the safety stop.

Ascending slowly, I signaled to the boys to let the air out of their BCs. I did not know at the time that they had no idea what I was talking about. At approximately 30 feet, the boys began rising at an accelerated rate. I again signaled to dump the air in their BCs, but to no avail. I tried to hold both boys down at 20 feet, but it was impossible. We all surfaced at a fast pace.

I was really steamed because I had already done two dives that day, and this was making for a bad dive profile. My first dive was at 109 feet, and the second one was at 54 feet. I usually make long safety stops, because I am not in the best physical shape for a diver. I knew how this dive at 93 feet with no safety stop could affect me, but I could only hope I was okay. Needless to say, when we were on the boat, both boys got a good lecture from me. I also had a nice chat with their father about their experiences.

A few minutes later, it really hit me. If I had not gone down to get the young man and checked his air gauge, he would have run out of air. I found it difficult to think about what could have happened.

Training and education does not stop with a certification card. I hope that these two young men have learned from their experiences and in the future will be more responsible divers. When one of the boys passed by my room a short time later, he stopped and said, “Thank you, Mr. Fittipaldi. From now on, my brother and I will remember the right things to do. Thanks again for your help.”