Eric Seibel - OceanFest E-Divers Party, 2004

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Eric Seibel - OceanFest E-Divers Party, 2003

Eric Seibel - OceanFest E-Divers Party, 2003

Eric Seibel - OceanFest E-Divers Party, 2003

Eric Seibel - OceanFest E-Divers Party, 2003

Eric Seibel - OceanFest E-Divers Party, 2003

Eric Seibel - OceanFest E-Divers Party, 2003

From: Christos Koutentis
Date: Tue Jun 29, 2004 11:02 am
Subject: Re: [5thdx] RE: [ScubaSpearos] Death of Eric Seibel

He was breathing backgas at all times.

Actually, I was feeling uncomfortable on the way down as I was struggling keeping up pace with Eric. Despite breathing 18/45, I felt that I was building up C02 much faster than I could clear it, and that is why I slowed down. I seriously contemplatred going back up, and leaving Eric alone as I knew that if I carried on at this pace that I would have got myself in serious trouble. This had got so bad that I was actually overbreathing my Scubapro Mk25/G600 rig. This cleared up when I momentarily slowed down, and I was able to continue my descent with no further issues. I went over this with George and he too feels that it was likely to have been a CO2 hit despite the decreased viscosity of the gas we were breathing.

You hinted about different conditions / rules for deep speafishing as opposed to exploration dives. I truly believe that Eric had worked out and had contributed more to this than ayone else I know. He was in fact testing a setup on his speargun that was designed to minimise effort in deep spearfishing, and which was brilliant in it's simplicity and evolutionary as a concept. Any unique conditions to deep spearfishing should be an addition to DIR, not a perturbation or variation.

I'm taking a couple of days off work as I am beginning to get flashbacks and am becoming increasingly tearful.


Dan Volker wrote:

My condolences to you for the loss of your friend. It sounds like you did everything you could--too bad Eric did not regulate/reduce his speed to stay within eye contact with you. Also, I applaud you for having the balls to do a proper DIR rescue as you did.

While CO2 buildup used to be an issue on a fast spearfishing drop to 200 feet on pure air ( remembering the late 1980's when deep air was the norm) , it is difficult to imagine this as the culprit on a trimix dive--unless he was breathing his 50/50 bottle well beyond 70 feet deep. When George Irvine, Bill Mee and I would do rapid drop spearfishing dives, we would typically drop using bottom gas from the surface, since we would be below 70 feet in a few seconds( and each of us are very fast descenders when we need to be for the conditions..I doubt GUE even suggests this, due to the hypoxia result if the diver does not descend as fast as this requires--and because, generally speaking, rapid descents are less healthy than slower ones) . I only bring this up because you and several on this list are part of a very small fraternity of divers who spearfish AND have the skills to dive deep ( whereas most tech divers really don't spearfish) such, the issue of hitting the water and beginning the drop is quite different than for "normal tech diving". It would appear very easy to accidentally drop well below 70 feet while still breathing 50/50, if you began setting up the bands on your gun just after you hit the water. Even if Eric switched gas after realizing he was too deep for the 50/50, it could still be too late. Eric's death was a terrible tragedy, but if we can figure out what caused the accident, we can prevent this happening to others. DIR has lots of rules and procedures for exploration diving, but for deep dive spearfishing and deep lobstering, little has been taught or published. This is an area that needs to be contributed to.

Dan Volke r

From: Christos Koutentis [mailto:ccg_dir@y...]
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2004 1:13 AM
Subject: [ScubaSpearos] Death of Eric Seibel

Thank you all for all the kind comments.
Here is a brief synopsis of what happened:

Dive planned to 170-190 ft , 30 mins BT on a backgas of 18/45 in PST 104's, 50 mins deco on 50 and 100%. Sand was 210 ft, but profile allowed for a considerably shallower average depth. We had planned on dropping on the Lowrance wreck, and my buddy being a keen spearfisherman had brought his gun. I did not.

Everything was fine on the boat, there were no signs or premonitions of anything untoward on the surface and on most of the descent. The current was in excess of 2 knots, and the water temperature was considerably colder than usual for Pompano, about 66F. My buddy dropped faster than I did on this occasion, and I was not able to maintain eye contact. I chose to not swim as fast as him, as I could already feel some CO2 narcosis stepping in. The team ahead of us for whatever reason had chosen to place a down-line, and I saw my buddy take hold of it and descend on it. I can only presume that he would have loaded the four bands of his speargun at this time based on previous observations of his behaviour. It's not hard to imagine that the effort of this at 70 ft or so, compounded with all the other factors would have driven his PCO2 to levels that were not compatible with life.

I had him in clear visual contact all the time, and when we caught up on the bottom, he started seizing immediately. I could not extricate him from the wreck at once as his manifold was caught up on part of the wreck, so I deflated his wing, purged my 7 cft hose into his mouth as his rig was out in an attempt to clear his oropharyngeal airway, and belted for the surface. Dive time then was 11 mins, we were at 150ft (I think the current took us north of the Lowrance as I did not recognize the wreck... we were probably 300ft N on the "Renegade"). To those with whom I have previously spoken, I apologise for calling the depth 170; This was an estimate based on an assumption that we were on the Lowrance which I believe we missed. Time to surface was 4 minutes, I had switched to 50% en route, and the boat was right on top of us. Even on the ascent, I could see that my buddy was Cyanosed, and that there was frothy material coming out of his mouth. All the way up to the surface, he was having a grand mal seizure, and this stopped at about 40ft. I chose not to wait for his seizures to abait as he was already cyanotic, and I pressed on his belly all the way up in a vain attempt to prevent a pneumothorax. On the surface, there was a massive amount of frothy blood tinged sputum coming of his mouth and nose, I cut him out of his harness, and he was hauled onto the boat. The police were on site in less than 2 mins, I went on O2, and we were were back in dock in less than three minutes. My girlfriend who is an ER doc noted that he had a gash on his cheek, and that he was so cyanotic and mottled that there was no way that this could have been a 4 minute rescue. She noted in particular that alot of water was coming out of his airway during rescuscitation. This confirms to me beyond any reasonable doubt that my buddy had passed out at about 70 -100ft due to overexcertion and CO2 narcosis, as a result of the goal orientated approach of his dream of nailing a black grouper on the Lowrance. I believe that that he had inadvertently chosen to ignore the warning signs that that his body was showing him. He most likely scraped his head onto the wreck, drowned on the way down, and started seizing due to Hypoxia / Anoxia. I sincerely doubt that there was any CO or acetylene in his backgas as the fill station we use is the best run in florida, and the proprietor is extremely anal retentive and methodical.

I would like to thank the member of the other team for giving up on attempting to drag my buddy towards the "upline", and from allowing me to head to the surface when he realised that my ascent was too uncomfortable for him. I would like to thank that team for continuing their dive as though nothing had happened, and for not recovering my friend's speargun.

In particular I would like to commend Captain Conrad Nix for his decisive action, my girlfiend for an exemplary rescusitation despite overwhelming odds, and for the Sheriff for getting on site in record speed. In particular I would like to thank the Dentist member of the other team who maintained mouth to mouth rescusuitation despite my comments calling for an end to the code. I declined to go to the chamber and signed out AMA as I was well clear on deco.

I would also like to thank Dean Marshall, Cody Gardner, Bob Sherwood and Andrew Georgitsis for teaching me how to rescue an unconscious diver. I would in particular like to mention Andrew Georgitsis and Tyler Moon for coaxing me into becoming more emotionally cool, smooth, unflinching, and deliberate in my actions. I would also like to thank all of the countless individuals, both Professors, and Patients throughout my fifteen years of Postgraduate Medical Training who taught me the value of life, the dignity of humanity, the art of Medicine and for developing me as a person who functions best in conditions of high stress.

Eric Seibel was one of my best friends, a brilliant man and an exceptionally talented diver. He just celebrated his 5Oth birthday on Saturday and will always be remembered for his humanity, quick wit and his kindness. Whilst he made some decisions today which I would not have, I will not dwell upon these. He was well loved by many people in South Florida and leaves behind a wife and family. This is the only comment that I will post online in a public forum. There are no learning experiences to be gained from this, and I would only hope that people continue to take heed, and appreciate the limitations of their training and physiology.

Over the next few days I will no doubt increasingly blame myself for "not doing this", and "not doing that". I do this everytime I have a death in the OR, and it always runs through the same cycle. There is nothing else that could have done to have prevented this death besides not diving today. Through the years I have learnt to dissociate myself emotionally from my work, and this is helping enormously right now, although I don't expect it to last much longer as I work through the stages of mourning for my friend.

Enough for now.

Warm Regards to all,