Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scuba divers warned; Travellers' Bulletin Board.(Features). USA, LLC

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Death prompts call for improved safety, writes Tom Chesshyre

HOLIDAYMAKERS who go scuba diving on Australia's Great Barrier Reef are being warned to ensure instructors are fully qualified and that safety precautions are in place, after a British woman drowned there this week.

Rowena Sines, who emigrated to Australia from the Isle of Wight 13 years ago, vanished after being caught by a current on Wilson Reef, 230 miles north of Cairns. She was the fifth person to die while scubadiving off Queensland this year.

Mystery also still surrounds exactly what happened to an American couple - Tom Lonergan, 33, and his wife Eileen, 28 - who disappeared while scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef last January.

In 1997, 17 people died while diving in the UK; worldwide figures are not kept. The British Hyperbaric Association - which collects data on diving accidents - said travellers should always check companies are registered with either the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, the British Sub-Aqua Club or an equivalent foreign body (see numbers below).

Dr Peter Benton, who analyses BHA data, added that people should also use their common sense to see whether diving centres look well-maintained. "Tatty, scruffy buildings are a giveaway," he said, "even if the centre claims to be registered with one of the main bodies it could well be that it has not been checked for a long time. If that is so, its training levels and maintenance may well have slipped."

Regal Holidays sends about 6,000 people a year on diving holidays (mainly in the Red Sea) and claims all its instructors and diving centres are recognised by PADI. Its boats take medical sets, oxygen back-up canisters (in case a diver surfaces too quickly and gets decompression sickness) as well as marine radios (to contact the coast guard in emergencies).

A spokeswoman said: "Most problems with our clients have occured when macho people go down too deep and then come up too quickly."

Bob Boler, diving officer at BSAC, which has 55,000 members worldwide, said: "Obviously it's terrible to hear about the woman dying in Australia, but if you look at the sport overall it is statistically very safe."

Safety tips:

1. Check the diving school or centre is recognised by either BSAC (0500 947202) or PADI (0117 971 1717).

2. Never dive alone.

3. Know your limitations.

4. Don't drink or smoke the night before.

5. Ensure equipment is well-maintained.

6. Don't dive on the day before flying home.

Copyright (C) The Times, 1998

Source Citation:Chesshyre, Tom. "Scuba divers warned; Travellers' Bulletin Board." The Times (London, England) (June 27, 1998): 30. Academic OneFile. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 24 Oct. 2009

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