Diver who drowned in Saanich Inlet a member of CFB Esquimalt
May 21 2012
Coroner Barb McLintock: “If [the diver who died] had the air embolism, was it because he rose to the surface too quickly and, if so, what happened to make him come up so early?”Photograph by: Adrian Lam , timescolonist.com
The man who died in the scuba-diving accident in Saanich Inlet on Saturday was a member of CFB Esquimalt and might have been on a technical deep-water dive, several sources reported Sunday.
Base staff said the man was one of their personnel, but did not have any more details about the incident. Police confirmed the man was part of a three-person dive and the B.C. Coroners Service has not ruled out the possibility that the man might have suffered an air embolism, possibly from resurfacing too quickly.
The incident occurred about 1.5 kilometres south of Bamberton about 3:30 p.m., said Shawnigan Lake RCMP, who received a call about an unconscious man who was having trouble breathing.
The three men had been spotted in the busy waters by people in a nearby sailboat, said a professional diver who heard the call come in over the marine radio.
The man, who did not want his name published, said the reports indicated one diver was “bleeding, unresponsive and foaming from the mouth.” He said that indicates a possible air embolism, also known as gas embolism.
An air embolism can be suffered by ascending divers who have been breathing compressed air. It is a pathological condition caused by gas bubbles in a vascular system.
“It’s air that comes out of your blood through your lungs,” said the anonymous professional diver. “It’s not good.”
Given that the two other divers in Saturday’s incident were taken to decompression chambers, the B.C. Coroners Service staff said they have to consider the possibility of an air embolism.
“That’s one of the things that will be looked at with great care,” said coroner Barb McLintock. “If he had the air embolism, was it because he rose to the surface too quickly and if so, what happened to make him come up so early?”
The reports over the marine radio stated that the boaters had difficulty lifting the victim into the sailboat. But once they had him on board, they transported all three men to the east side of the peninsula at Brentwood Bay Marina. From there, the man was taken to nearby Saanich Peninsula Hospital.
On Saturday, Shawnigan Lake RCMP Const. Mike O’Connell said police would not provide further details about the victim and the other personnel involved for two reasons: a request for privacy from his family and to maintain the integrity of the investigation.
“We are trying to obtain statements and get the last details of what exactly did happen and why,” O’Connell said.
He would not say where the man died, whether at the scene, in transit or in the hospital.
McLintock said her office will conduct an autopsy, while the Canadian Coast Guard will test the victim’s equipment.
“We treat all of these diving deaths seriously,” McLintock said. “What we do know is that the people had sophisticated equipment and had gone in the water off a proper dive boat. Other than that, this is still very preliminary at this stage.”