It took a minute to register it, but I heard a noise, far off, sort of familiar. At first I thought it was a ringing in my ears, so I cleared them. The sound persisted. Then, slowly, the sound came into focus. I realized I was hearing the recall siren from the dive boat.
My first thought was, 'I havenít been down that long.' Then it dawned on me. Someoneís in trouble.
In 15 years of diving Iíd listened dutifully to pre-dive briefings and heard divemasters tell us time and again about the recall siren. Until now I had never heard one underwater. But once heard, there is no mistaking the sound.
My buddy and I quickly navigated our way back to the anchor-line, made our three minute safety stop and surfaced. We could see the crew administering oxygen to a prone figure on the deck.
One by one we boarded, all wondering what happened. No one knew yet. A diver had shot to the surface. Embolized? Stroke Victim? We could only guess. But, one thing was for certain, Divers Alert Network (DAN) was already on the job.
Meanwhile, back on deck, a divemaster told us to secure all our gear. The Coast Guard helicopter was on its way to airlift the victim and any loose gear would be blown overboard by the prop wash.
After locking down our gear we moved to the sun deck, out of the way. We still hadnít learned much. The victim was a single and had been diving with a new buddy who knew only his first name. One minute they were diving together, the next his buddy was at the surface. We were quizzed. No one else knew the victim either. The divemasters quickly searched the bunks below decks for his identification. (A simple DAN tag attached to his tank or BC tank wouldíve alleviated any identity questions.)
We heard the chopper first, then it appeared, a familiar orange and white, on the horizon. Within a minute the chopper was hovering overhead. We were all silent now, watching the rescue, watching as the unmoving victim was placed in the cage and winched up and into the chopper, then whisked away.
Before the next dive, before I geared up and got into the water, I checked one thing. My DAN member card. I wanted to make sure it hadn't expired (1 had let it lapse on occasion). I wondered if the man I'd just seen airlifted had DAN insurance, hoped he did, hoped he was OK, too.
My DAN card was still valid. And a huge sense of relief came with that knowledge.
Later, as the dive boat was returning to the harbor, the captain reported that the victim was responding well in the Northridge Hospital hyperbaric chamber. We had learned more, too. There had not been an dive emergency, seemingly not even a moment of panic. The accident just happened. This was a DAN card moment and those without DAN insurance that day vowed to get it. The unanimous opinion was that every diver should have it and every diver should be a DAN member. The benefits far out-weighed the costs. There's nothing quite like watching an emergency airlift to galvanize divers' opinions about the value of dive insurance. But, DAN is more than just insurance, DAN is a ready-made plan, DAN supports the well-being of all divers worldwide, 24 hours a day, and DAN is always the first place called during an emergency.
And, unlike nearly everything divers do or buy, DAN membership and insurance is cheap (see sidebar). Can you really afford to dive without it? For more information, call DAN at (800) 446-2671.
Online Note: Sign up with DAN now from our transactions section.