Domino effect led to diver’s death


Domino effect led to diver’s death

Google Earth

Motunau Island. (Picture: Google Earth)

A New Zealand scuba diver died through a lethal combination of unsafe practices from which other divers could learn, a coroner has concluded at the inquest.

Fifty-eight-year-old Neil Brookes was on a dive-trip to catch crayfish near Motunau Island off South Island three years ago. At the inquest, reported by New Zealand news outlet Stuff, the Coroner heard that Brookes had been diving for 15 years and had “done a diving course”.

He and neighbours Mark O’Donnell and his son Hayden O’Donnell had gone out on a boat driven by David Weston on the morning of 5 March, 2017.

The three planned to dive together and followed the line down to the rocky seabed at 25-30m depth, but on arrival O’Donnell senior had grabbed for a crayfish and was lost from view in kicked-up silt.

The divers continued the dive separately. Hayden O’Donnell ascended with his catch and his father surfaced a few minutes after he was back on the boat. Brookes also surfaced as Weston headed over to pick up O’Donnell.

But while Hayden O’Donnell was helping his father back onto the boat he heard what sounded like a gasp from Brookes’ direction. He looked over and saw him at the surface but could not tell whether his BC was inflated.

Weston told the coroner that he had seen Brookes take his mask off and remove his second stage on surfacing. As he drove over to pick him up, the boat’s occupants saw Brookes leaning back with his catch-bag in front of him, regulator out and arms outstretched.

He emitted a short, loud sound that appeared to be a cry of pain rather than a call for help, before waves covered his face and he started to sink out of sight without a struggle.

The group searched the area and put out a Mayday call. Police divers eventually found Brookes’ body on the seabed 24m deep the next day.

An incident report submitted by police diver Constable Seda Clayton-Greene concluded that unsafe diving practices that might not have proved lethal individually had together caused a “domino effect with fatal consequences”.

4 June 2020

These included Brookes possibly breathing his cylinder empty, not wearing any sort of dive-timer, attaching a catch-bag directly to his dive-gear and continuing a dive solo.

The cry of pain could have indicated that a rapid ascent had occurred, causing decompression illness or an embolism.

The Coroner said that Brookes’ death had been complicated by the loss of his mask and regulator, being overweighted by both lead and his bag of crayfish, and separation from the other divers. He said the incident highlighted the need for divers to check their weighting and buoyancy, monitor their air supply and stay with a buddy.

Having considered pathology reports, he found the probable cause of death to be drowning following a possible cerebral arterial gas embolism suffered during an out-of-air ascent.



Get a weekly roundup of all Divernet news and articles 🤿

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Divernet Posts

Diver Magazine Relaunch

Diver magazine needs YOU!

Are you still lamenting the demise of Diver magazine? Well now you can help resurrect an icon as we seek to bring back the magazine

manta ray and diver over reef in Komodo

Divers pitch into Komodo manta probe

Manta rays choose to stick around Indonesia’s Komodo National Park in unusually large numbers – and, according to a new diver-led study, this community could

female diver holding pair of Fourth Element Tech fins

Tech fins inspired by humpback whales

Whales provided the inspiration for optimising efficiency in Fourth Element’s latest fins, according to the Cornwall-based manufacturer. The “turbulence disruptors” on top of the blades

Last Breath portrait of Woody Harrelson

Woody dives into Last Breath remake

A new version of the British documentary-thriller that captured the imaginations of divers in 2019 is about to be previewed at the Cannes Film Festival.

Viagra tablet

Viagra and diving: Risk reduction

Awareness is everything in diving, and BOB COLE has advice for divers who, for whatever reason, take PDE5 inhibitors I recently met an old friend

Reefs of Raja Ampat

Reefs of Raja Ampat

Local Guide to Raja Ampat Reefs, #4 Neu Reef While Raja Ampat is home to an incredible number of dive sites, one area, in particular,

Follow Divernet on Social Media