DIVERS: Jason (Divemaster, 890-plus dives), Bill (Divemaster, 1,500-plus dives)
SITE: Boat dive, Florida Keys
CONDITIONS: 82˚F water, visibility 80 feet, sunny and hot
Preparing for their first dive of the day, Jason and Bill started through a BWRAF (BC, Weight system, Releases, Air, Final check) predive safety check. At Air, they confirmed full cylinders and checked each other’s valves. Next, they tested their regulators, breathing slowly in and out while watching the pressure gauge to make sure the gauge did not move, and then switching to do the same with their alternate-air sources.
But Jason’s had a problem. “What’s with this?” he asked. “I’m getting air, but it’s not scuba air.”
Jason breathed in and out once again, with similar results.
“The side plug’s missing,” Bill said, pointing to an open port on the second stage’s left side.
“What? Well, flip. I took it out to check for debris after yesterday’s dive in all that silt and didn’t put it back. Bet it’s sitting right where I left it.”
Fortunately, the boat had a spare regulator, so he and Bill didn’t have to cancel the dive.
What They Did Wrong
Nothing. This is an example of how doing what you’re trained to do can head off big problems. Had the problem not been caught during the check, it might have been caught at the absolute worst time: during an out-of-air emergency. Providing a nonfunctional air source to an out-of-air diver would have not only raised stress, but might have complicated managing it by leaving two divers only a single second stage to share.
What They Did Right
They conducted a thorough predive safety check, including test breathing both their primary and alternate second stages. Having found a problem, they corrected the problem rather than dive with it.
Five Tips from This Incident
1. Make predive safety checks routine. They prevent a lot of scuba diving accidents, and incident reports commonly cite causes that a predive check would have caught.
2. Know each other’s gear. Besides checking functionality, buddies should confirm where to locate each other’s alternates and how to drop each other’s weights.
3. If you take stuff apart, reassemble and check it immediately. It’s inconvenient at best to find out something’s not right when you’re at the dive site. Only disassemble scuba diving gear as far as you’re qualified to do so by the manufacturer.
4. Have a spare-parts kit. Predive checks commonly catch torn mouthpieces, worn straps, missing O-rings, etc. A supply of such user-replaceable items can prevent missing a dive — and make you very popular!
5. The PADI Equipment Specialist course can help with maintenance and care tips that increase the likelihood that your gear performs consistently and reliably.