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Accident at the Blue Hole!

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New Member
Jan 31, 2012
A few days ago there was the first real accident ( Freediving) at the Blue Hole with a BO at 60m ! here ist the story

Report of the most beautiful way done to -89m in CWT Hello all together, i know and hear that a lot of freedivers and friends are waiting for informations, what really happend during the 07 of january of 2012 in my nearly perfect dive of my life. Now after three weeks and many medical visits and control of lungs i am very happy to tell you that i am really okay and i can start make freediving again :) Before i start to write, I will say thank you for all the people, who was this day in the Blue Hole helping rescueing me. The 07.01.2012 at 10:40h i start my dive as usual, with 2 warm up. We put a tennis ball on the line about 1 meter above the bottom plate, so that i know when i reach the tennis ball i have one more meter until the tag. The system with the tennis balls has been used in freediving for quite a while as a safety measure to prevent lanyards from getting entangeld in anything at the end of the rope. The way down was very easy, relaxed, comfortable and pleasant. So that i reach the tennis ball after 1.45min and look down to the bottom searching the tag. But i could'nt see it and looked around for a while. I make the turn and start my assent, but...i immediately felt that i was stuck in something. I kept swimming and made a conscious decision NOT to release the lanyard since i did not want to risk the safety divers not to find me, if i got a black out before surfing. I kept swimming up lifting the whole bottom weight of 6 kilo with me. When i reached the 60 meters i look at my dive computer and realize that i will not be able to swim all the way up. I stop swimming and wait to be rescued when i feel my left arm (the one with the lanyard) is going up and i realize that now i was beeing pulling up. Lotta start pulling the dive line with Stefan and some other freedivers which where all helping. Around 17m Stefan picks me up and Lotta was giving me immediately rescue breath when i reached the surface. After 1 min i started to breath. Then after three hours after the accident i was eating with Olga in the chinese restaurant. Lotta looked at the dive computer with Olga in the afternoon and: It was very clear when we looked at the dive line after the dive i got stuck with the lanyard in the tennis ball. The ball had been moved upward about 10 cm from the original position. I am very happy that i don't take off my lanyard, really and for me it was and is still now the right decision, that i made, that is my opinion. After all it was a beatiful holiday, because a couple days before during a trainging session i made a new pb afther the fifth training day with -87m in CWT. Thanks to my instructors Linda Paganelli and Lotta Ericson. With this to girls a begun in the depth with -40m in CWT in 2010 and they teached me until i reached the bottom of the Blue Hole! I am also very happy, that i have win for friend: Stefan Randig and also Lotta Ericson. They are not only for my instructors and safety divers they are for me FRIENDS. Both are from Freedive Dahab. This great safety divers had made a really good job! THANK YOU SO MUCH! I also want's to say to rest of the FREEDIVE CENTER DAHAB Team, thank you for everything!
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Incredible story, I am glad you are ok! Did you keep the tennis ball as a memento?
I´m not Sergio, he posted it somewhere else. I don´t know him but some friend does. For me it´s a crazy story and some parts a not really clear.... Maybe someone else know more about it?
I am glad the story had a happy end. But this is already at least the third accident involving a lanyard in the last few months. It becomes clear that the procedures of using lanyard need to be improved, otherwise it is very likely we will see some more dead freedivers in the near future.

Just to remind you of the last few accidents: the first was the tragic loss of Adel Abu-Haliqa who supposedly released his lanyard too early upon his ascent, blackout out,and his body was never found. The second case was fortunately much luckier - Micha Risian at the last WC lost his lanyar during the immersion, and due to it lost also physical and visual contact with his descend line, but fortunately managed to surface at another line without blacking out.

In this case, it was not a prematurely released or lost lanyard, but oppositely an entagled one. Trying to ascent despite the blocked lanyard was probably even less wise than releasing it and ascending without it.

So what would be the ideal solution? I believe that the proper reaction would be trying to release the entaglement without leaving the lanyard, and starting then the ascent while signalling by pulling the rope that assistance is needed (when the de-blocking took more than just a few seconds, or cost too much effort or stress).

Unfortunately I am not quite sure whether such crisis situation are being drilled with the entire team (athletes, safeties, and judges) often enough. Of course when it happens, and you never drilled such situation there is little chance you will act adequately.
Well, we now know of countless 'near-fatal' accidents *caused* by lanyards, and still not one single diver actually rescued by one.

Personally my worst 'danger' situation was also caused by lanyard entanglement, in this case in free immersion with the lanyard around my ankle. I too attempt to ascend for around 30m dragging a huge resistance, until finally releasing the lanyard, which was a totally 'blind' attempt since my goggles have limited field of view, it was still extremely dark down there and the lanyard at my ankle was invisible.

I recently pulled up some of my old documents on alternate safety systems (ZiSOS, Neptune, etc.) Unfortunately the counter-ballast lanyard system is so entrenched in people's minds, it is hard to speak of any other system.
I read this the other day and still think the problem lies pretty much only in the decision NOT to release a lanyard that is clearly entangled. In 20-30m viz and with good safety divers due to meet you around 20-30m, I simply could not understand the rationale behind not releasing. Sergio is a good diver, but I strongly believe that he made the wrong decision here. He is very lucky the safety team is so accomplished.

If you have a better system that is still cost-effective, I'm all ears.
Chris, I think than when narced and hypoxic a bit, it is easy to make a wrong decision. As long as the situation was not trained and drilled, a wrong reaction is not surprising at all even at a very good and otherwise experienced diver.
Whether it was right or wrong, it's is surprising that the diver's reaction was to keep the lanyard on. Most would want to ditch it immediately.
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How about weighting?

I know Bahamas is warm... But with a 5mm suit (what I wear most of the time), I think that ditching the lanyard and 4kg of ballast would do a lot for my buoyancy and would have to be a strategy that I should practice - just in case.

Secondly, I have seen a lot of different caribiners on lanyards and my opinion is that the ones that are shaped like a "keyhole" pose much more risk for entanglement.

What style was used in this case?

I personally feel safe with a lanyard... But have a quick release on mine (reachable with the lanyard'd hand) and would not hesitate to ditch both it and my ballast if I felt any resistance.

Glad all ended up well. There is a golden minute after blackout. It definitely reinforces the need for capable safety divers / buddies.
I agree that we don't practice this enough. If you don't repeat it as a drill when you are doing well, it's less likely that you'll think about releasing the lanyard AND ascend holding the rope in a case where you are tired, narked and apoxic. Unfortunately in a competition freedivers want to minimize the number of points they will loose and usually you don't think about BO when you are at the plate so I can understand a certain reluctance to grab the rope on a constant weight dive. Yet it should be safety first.
Maybe it's time for a bit of awareness raising. As freedivers it's our own responsibility. I don't think that organisations can do much about this but as a community, perhaps we can.
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Why ascend holding the rope?

Because in case of low visibility or if there is current or if you end up completely spaced out, you may end up far from the line and your safety diver would not find you right away. Of course there is a difference between going to 10m and doing a deep dive but I dive in dark murky water a lot and I have lost the rope even in shallow dives and I got even more lost the first time I dived in blue water too so personally I want to make sure my safety knows where I am and I want to make sure I know where my buddy is. Of course, risks vary according to the diving conditions but I have seen a good freediver coming up the opposite side of a platform and it wasn't fun for those searching for him.
Makes sense in bad vis, sure. Not something I'd do in the blue hole though. Of course it'll mean you BO earlier too, which isn't a great tradeoff.
Moral of the story: Don't use tennisballs!

I wish someone had told you beforehand, but they suck (not the first time this has happened). Glad you're ok though...
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Some of the safetys is a good firend of mine. He was also the one who released the lanyard at the surface. Interestingly it was not entangled and he also said that the Carabiner was to smal to get entangled...
He think that the Lanyard itself ( the string )might got entangled during the descent / turn because Sergo was diving down in circles around the rope ( which is not unusual and a lot do this .... ) This happend to me also last year, the string of my lanyard is relatively thin and long.

But we will never know exactly what´s happend.But one thing is for sure: Lanyards are not as safe as some might think and the regulations of AIDA ( not longer than 125cm ) are just not enough!

Luckily he´s alive!
Every aspect should be thought out, written down and trained again and again so if/when entanglement does happen the athlete has a plan - the safety crew has to plan - practice, review. Even if one is narked if you are conditioned to tug the line, release the quick release, run your hands up the line it is automatic. Grabbing and bringing up the line should not be a person's first choice - it shows lack of planning. If you dive be responsible.
In a situation where you are completely stuck and cannot ascend, obviously releasing is the right choice.

In a situation where you are simply experiencing high drag, the narcosis makes the choice much more difficult. When I had the entanglement on the 73m FIM dive, according to my memory I thought I spent around 15m ascending with great drag, before deciding to release. Thus I thought I released the lanyard at 60m. However checking the dive profile it turns out I released the lanyard around 38m, meaning the 'decision' to release it took me 37m of ascending with a +8kg penalty. Consider that the dive time was way over 3 minutes for such a shallow dive and it shows how much time was wasted dragging with the entanglement as well as releasing the lanyard.

What I do *not* agree with is releasing the lanyard on the descent and continuing the dive. Herbert on his 120m world record released the lanyard halfway down the descent, continued to the bottom plate with no lanyard, and finished the dive successfully.
Why did he release his lanyard? Thought that results in a yellow card?

Herbert claimed that he felt 'increasing resistance' on the lanyard. You are allowed to release the lanyard if there is a safety hazard, although the rules don't really specify how the athlete needs to justify that.