On behalf of the diving community I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Miss. Tong, who tragically died in a diving related accident over the weekend. This is now the 4th fatality in nearly 10 years.
At the time of the accident I was approximately 500m away exploring an underwater cave. The visibility was outstanding with a slight swell running (approx 8 hrs before the NE monsoon signal was raised). In fact generally the underwater visibility over the summer has been markedly better than in previous years.
Without knowing too much about the events that led upto the accident, a number of issues need to be made clear.
Hong Kong diving is sometimes challenging as tides and wind conditions can reduce visibility to 2-3 m . It is especially important that buddy diving be carried out (diving in pairs). At all times the divers should be in view of each other or at least tied together with a 1-2m buddy line. Should the divers become seperated or lost underwater a brief search in the near vicinity should be made before heading up and waiting on the surface. Divers may also wish to use underwater noises to attract each other’s attention (banging rocks/knife on tank etc).
Once on the surface the divers can head back down and continue the dive..
Divers should also come properly equipped with dive knives or net cutting tools. Numerous ghost nets/gill nets cover rocks and wrecks in Hong Kong and all too often divers swim into them or become entangled. The best way to get out of this mess is to carefully cut through the net line by line until you are free. Do not swim in circles and try and pull the net off; you will only succeed in becoming more trapped.
Most importantly if you are considering doing a diving course then please choose a reputable company with a proven track safety record. There is a price war at the moment where diving instructors are reducing their course costs to attract more customers. This has the potential to cut corners and make the level of tuition both sloppy and incomplete. It is worth paying that little bit extra for the best instructor.
All views expressed in this article are those of Charles Frew/Asiatic Marine