Recently reported to the NZUA is an incident involving PADI Rescue Diver with over 200 logged dives diving for scallops in Kawau Bay supported by a Powerdive air-supply unit.
The Powerdive in question is battery-operated surface-supply unit; no official qualifications are required to use it.
The affected diver reports a bottom time of less than one-hour, collecting scallops in approximately 9m of water. Over this period, the diver reports surfacing four-times.
He was under weighted, with only a 1kg lead weight in his pocket meaning controlling buoyancy was difficult.
15-minutes after the final ascent the diver noticed visual impairment. His spouse called 111 and the Westpac rescue helicopter was dispatched.
The diver lost consciousness in transit to Auckland Hospital, eventually being transferred to the hyperbaric unit at Christchurch Hospital for decompression sickness treatment.
Surprised by the severity of his symptoms, the medical team hypothesised the cumulative effect of multiple ascents in a short time, fatigue from carrying a heavy bag of scallops, and the last ascent possibly more rapid than normal as contributing factors to the onset decompression sickness but are still uncertain of the cause.
Thankfully, the diver is on his way to making a full recovery, and we are all grateful for the help of the excellent medical care provided by New Zealand’s specialist hyperbaric teams and the Coastguard team from Hibiscus Rescue 1.
For the diver, returning to normality will take time. For all of us, the incident serves as a reminder to always be safe, even in relatively benign conditions and depths.