Sunday, May 28, 2017

Comment on, "Edgewater diver who drowned at Blue Spring still had air in tank" The deadly quarter turn back!

Yes! Always open the tank valve all the way...  NO quarter turns backwards. #scuba #tankvalve #noquarterturnback NAUI has this written in their literature for some reason, but I teach to not do this...

The deadly quarter turn back!

An Edgewater diver who drowned at Blue Spring State Park had plenty of air in his tank but, its air valve was only partly open, according to a report from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

By Frank Fernandez /

An Edgewater diver who drowned at Blue Spring State Park had plenty of air in his tank but its air valve was only partly open and he was not certified to dive as deep as he did, according to a report from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

Samuel Slack, 36, drowned on Oct. 9 after he had a problem with his air supply and an attempt at buddy-breathing failed with his diving partner, Daniel Vansickle, 37, of New Smyrna Beach, according to reports. Slack "showed no signs of apparent or obvious injury" and the autopsy determined his death was an accidental drowning, the report states.

Keith Sterner, the owner of Sea Dog Dive Shop in New Smyrna Beach where Vansickle earned his open water and advanced certificate, said an out-of-air diver can quickly panic.

"It’s scary to see people panic," Sterner said. "You see grown men do things you wouldn’t think they’d do. A lot of times you can’t control someone in a panic and the best thing you can do is to save yourself."

Slack was the first diver to die at Blue Spring in Orange City since 2009 when Robert A. Jones, 38, of Zephyrhills drowned while "free diving" without air tanks.

Vansickle told investigators the men had been diving for several minutes and were about 80 feet deep when Slack made a "throat slash" gesture to show he was having trouble breathing, the report said. 

Vansickle said he passed his regulator to Slack so he could breathe from it. 

But when Vansickle motioned for the regulator’s return after about 30 seconds Slack held on to it, the report said. Vansickle told deputies he then pulled away from Slack, got control of the regulator and swam to the surface. 

Once he surfaced, Vansickle yelled for a maintenance person to call 9-1-1, then dove back down and found Slack motionless in about 100 feet of water, the report states.

Vansickle could not be reached for comment.

Vansickle worked with Slack’s wife, Krystal, at The Garlic restaurant in New Smyrna Beach and had known Samuel Slack for about a year and a half, the report said.

Slack’s tank had about 2,100 pounds of pressure/air, the report states. 

Corbin McKeon, an employee at Spruce Creek Scuba in Port Orange, said in a phone interview that depending on the type, tanks can hold from 3,000 to 3,500 pounds of air. 

Slack’s tank valve "only turned less than one quarter (1/4) of a turn to shut off, this is not a normal operating position," the sheriff’s report states. Another part of the report said it turned only a quarter turn. Sterner said he teaches students to open the valve all the way, which can take several turns, and then turn it back a half-turn. 

"If the valve isn’t open all the way, it can create labored breathing," Sterner said.

Slack had a novice open water diver card, meaning he was not certified to dive any deeper than 60 feet, the report states. Both Slack and Vansickle initialed a document at the park that they would not exceed the limit of the least certified of the two, meaning that they should not have exceeded the 60-foot depth.

Vansickle was certified as a cavern diver and his gear included an extra regulator to be used by a buddy to breath during an emergency. 

But the additional regulator was under the chest straps of Vansickle’s "buoyancy vest, making the regulator unavailable if needed," the report states.

Each man’s wrist-worn dive computer showed they dove to 116 feet to the bottom of the spring and remained there for about 2 minutes. 

They ascended to about 80 feet where both computers showed that they stopped for about a minute. 

Slack’s computer shows he then descended to 90 feet and remained there for 8 minutes, the report said. Then Slack "immediately" rose to the surface.

Vansickle’s computer shows the same depths and then Vansickle rising to the surface as Slack remained at 90 feet. 

The computer shows Vansickle immediately descending to 90 feet and then immediately returning to the surface. The computer information is consistent with Vansickle’s account and his decompression sickness.

An investigator tried to formally interview Vansickle, but on advice of his counsel "he refused to cooperate further during the investigation."

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