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  1. #1
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    Respect the ocean

    RESPECT THE OCEAN .

    Wow. So, we're in Maui. A lady died on our snorkeling cruise today. I posted this on my FB but thought I'd also post it here because we're all the adventurous sort and it could happen to anyone. Just minutes before she was happily getting her picture taken in front of us while boarding, getting a rental camera explained to her, and standing next to us filming dolphins off the boat.

    Large boat out of Lahaina , for a 4 hour trip to lanai and back. Only ~40 passengers this day, usually over 100. Sea was 2-4ft swells. Not calm but not difficult for a competent snorkeler with fins. Waves created a mild current towards shore. We were 100yds from the boat, at about 40min in the water, and got called back by the ship horn and by one of the crew in a kayak. Snorkelers made it back to the boat as fast as possible, the main issue was that there was a bottleneck at the boat ladder getting people back in. I was not tired so I let others go and was the last one up the ladder. She was on the lower deck getting cpr as we boarded.

    We didn't see it, we only have details from others. She was mid fifties or early sixties. She was said to be using a life jacket, or floaty or both. She was spotted face down in the water unresponsive and brought in by the crew. She was given cpr continously for 20 min, as well as AED, as the boat went only 300yds to the lanai Harbor where paramedics arrived and declared her deceased. Crew did everything right and did everything they could.

    Couple things :
    1) She was alone, no buddy. ALWAYS use a buddy in open water. It's impossible to know how long she was in trouble before she stopped breathing, or whether she could have been saved.

    2) She did not appear to be in shape. Know your limits. An inexperienced swimmer or snorkeler who is out of shape can easily panic and struggle, even with a flotation device. it's possible she had a heart attack from over exertion, we'll probably never know.

    3) Did you know only 20% of people needing/recieving CPR actually survive, and only 5% total return to their original quality of life without long term issues such as TBI?! Cpr saves lives. . . occasionally . Not like you see in the movies, where the person is miraculously resuscitated and appears normal in the next scene. Don't count on cpr to save you.

    They brought her into the boat quickly but it took another 10-15min before all the swimmers were out of the water and we could start moving towards the harbor. This is the only snorkel trip I've ever been on where we were 300yds from a harbor. Paramedics were at the harbor within 5min of our docking. But still or wasn't enough.

    Respect the ocean. Use a buddy. Never take your eyes off your buddy. Seconds matter. Be in good shape before going into open water. Learn to snorkel in a safe, shallow area before going into open water. You need to learn to stay calm and rest with your snorkel and mask, not fight the water.

    Requiescat en pace.

  2. #2
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    Actually I'm surprised that the charter didn't mandate the buddy system for all the clients. If that's not state law then maybe that needs to be examined.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Respect the ocean

    Yeah I was thinking about that too. False sense of security with 40 people in the water.

  4. #4
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    Its easy to become functionally isolated when in the water, despite others in the vicinity.
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  5. #5
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    Re: Respect the ocean

    Exactly, when snorkeling you just don't really see people. Vis was 25ft due to the swells. So you wouldn't notice someone in distress when watching under water, unless you were very close and facing their front. From above, you see what you expect, a bunch of heads down.

    The poor crew will have nightmares. They will never look at their snorkelers the same again fearing everyone is drowning.

  6. #6
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    I grew up in a small beach town near SF and this sort of thing happened way too often during August/September (when temps actually start rising and it becomes summerish). Everyone who grew up there knows the power of the ocean, but the town is absolutely overrun by tourists from inland on the weekends. They see the ocean, think it's like the movies, and they go out to play in it.

    Nevermind the fact that the water is 55 degrees and will give you hypothermia within 20 minutes if you're not wearing a wetsuit. Strong rip currents, undertows, and the waves are always bigger and stronger when you're in the water than when you're standing 50 feet away on the beach. Every so often we'd see a Coast Guard helicopter running up and down the beach, but those tend to be recovery missions rather than search and rescue. That water kills, but a lot of people simply aren't aware of its power.
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  7. #7
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    What a freak event. As you mentioned, we all look dead and floating in the water when we are assuming a snorkeling position.

    At Santa Catalina Island in So Cal, I've snorkeled out into Lovers Cove and then just floated motionless for minutes at a time just watching the underwater world do it's thing. I guess I could have looked dead to someone above.

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    The poor woman had a pre-existing condition, I bet, and she was gonna drop no matter where she was.

    or maybe she had a phobia about the sea... a lot of people have something like that. I practically grew up in the ocean, and I've seen people with what I thought was an un-natural fear of it.

    Then again, if you can't swim, it IS pretty scary.

    A surfing buddy of mine had a heart attack and surfed on his board right up to the foot of the lifeguard tower in OB...he just rolled over on his back from what I heard, and the lifeguards were on him almost immediately. He died that night. CPR didn't work so well for him, either.

    I got knocked unconscious in that same spot a few years later. I took off too late on a wave, got pitched, and the corner of my board caught me right on my temple. The board was a heavy-glassed old "Fish" design. Lots of corners.

    I floated face-down long enough for the lifeguards to to come running out with their fins in hand, and then suddenly I woke up....for some reason, I had no water in my lungs or even much in my nose, but they told me they had been watching as I got pitched, and it looked like a good 30 seconds at least that I was face-down.

    I've heard of something called the "mammalian diving reflex" which they think exists in at least some people. I think I'm one of them.

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    Probably also worth mentioning that if you have asthma snorkelling is out. Just like SCUBA, a tiny bit of inhaled salt water can trigger an asthma attack. Then add current and fatigue and fear and you have a lethal mix. Sad story.

  10. #10
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    Re: Respect the ocean

    Wow crazy story Ray. You're extremely lucky.

  11. #11
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    Very sad and thanks for sharing Procter. And I'm sorry for all that witnessed the scene. Life is precious and short and its sad that it takes someone elses tragedy for us to realize it.
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    Respect the ocean

    Sad to hear this. I was in Maui a few years ago and my wife and I had fun watching people wade out into knee deep water, only to be totally rocked/yard-saled by the waves. I'm guessing many of them had never been to/in the ocean before. We thought it was amusing, but I guess the reality is that you shouldn't assume someone's abilities in the water, and it could get ugly really fast. Keep an eye out for each other. The ocean is powerful and unforgiving.


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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Ray View Post
    The poor woman had a pre-existing condition, I bet, and she was gonna drop no matter where she was.

    or maybe she had a phobia about the sea... a lot of people have something like that. I practically grew up in the ocean, and I've seen people with what I thought was an un-natural fear of it.

    Then again, if you can't swim, it IS pretty scary.

    A surfing buddy of mine had a heart attack and surfed on his board right up to the foot of the lifeguard tower in OB...he just rolled over on his back from what I heard, and the lifeguards were on him almost immediately. He died that night. CPR didn't work so well for him, either.

    I got knocked unconscious in that same spot a few years later. I took off too late on a wave, got pitched, and the corner of my board caught me right on my temple. The board was a heavy-glassed old "Fish" design. Lots of corners.

    I floated face-down long enough for the lifeguards to to come running out with their fins in hand, and then suddenly I woke up....for some reason, I had no water in my lungs or even much in my nose, but they told me they had been watching as I got pitched, and it looked like a good 30 seconds at least that I was face-down.

    I've heard of something called the "mammalian diving reflex" which they think exists in at least some people. I think I'm one of them.
    If the water was cold it could have initiated a reflex to stop you breathing underwater Ray. Other odd things also happen like at childbirth in a pool. Newborns don't breathe until surfaced, that water is not cold and we aren't amphibious. Also some head knocks put you in a stunned mode where reaction of any kind is not possible, including breathing. On the footy field it gets attention fast, but not in an ocean, or when you fall off the platform in front of a train. The luck of the draw of life....was on your side.

  14. #14
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    Every experienced waterman has a near drowning tale to tell. Slap a non water person in the same situation and you have a deceased human.

    "Know your limits" is great advice, provided you know what they are. The ocean is kinda brutal in that regard, you never really know what your personal limits are until it's all bad.

    Shame it happened, and quite the blemish on a vacation.

  15. #15
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    Definitely a downer for all involved, but:

    there are a lot worse ways to die. I only hope that I check out while doing something cool, rather than laying in a hospital bed.

  16. #16
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    “The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC). Drowning does not look like drowning – Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene Magazine, described the instinctive drowning response like this:”

    Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
    Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
    Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
    Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
    From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.


    “Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:

    Head low in the water, mouth at water level
    Head tilted back with mouth open
    Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
    Eyes closed
    Hair over forehead or eyes
    Not using legs – Vertical
    Hyperventilating or gasping
    Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
    Trying to roll over on the back
    Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder.”

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridnparadise View Post
    If the water was cold it could have initiated a reflex to stop you breathing underwater Ray. Other odd things also happen like at childbirth in a pool. Newborns don't breathe until surfaced, that water is not cold and we aren't amphibious. Also some head knocks put you in a stunned mode where reaction of any kind is not possible, including breathing. On the footy field it gets attention fast, but not in an ocean, or when you fall off the platform in front of a train. The luck of the draw of life....was on your side.
    It WAS cold water, at least for San diego. 56 degrees, and a rocking winter NW swell.

    The beach break in OB was happening that day, but after that, I just called it a day and went home. I doubt if the lifeguards would have let me get back in, anyway.

    That was far from my only near-death experience on the ocean. Like BRG says, the ocean can be kinda brutal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Procter View Post
    Wow crazy story Ray. You're extremely lucky.
    Just look at it this way, Procter. It was her time, and there was really nothing else to be done about it.

    Your'e on vacation in a beautiful place. Don't allow a death that was coming anyway to spoil that for you.

  19. #19
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    Excellant post Phillbo!

    I think it's important to note also that while the buddy system should be used in the open water it is useless if both snorkelers are unable to self rescue, let alone rescue their buddy. As a scuba diver I've had a few insta buddies on dive boats that were beginners and probably would have been unable to rescue me if I needed it. In those situations I am effectively diving solo. Or even worse, I'm diving solo and keeping an eye on my noob dive buddy. I also witnessed a panicked diver who improperly set up his gear. When his gear malfunctioned he freaked and so did his buddy. At the time I didn't know what to do. Now I would. So, I became a dive master and feel much more comfortable diving with new divers. I frequently practice self rescue drills, out of air etc and encourage others to do the same. I also make sure I discuss how we're going to dive as a team, plan our dive and stick to our plan. Especially if they're new divers.
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  20. #20
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    Just as in Skydiving... Plan the Dive and Dive the plan!

  21. #21
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    A kid died in Mission Bay (San Diego) here a few weeks ago. He was a talented HS basketball player, an exchange student from Africa. He capsized his rental kayak, and wasn't wearing the PFD issued by the rental outfit. He allegedly did not know how to swim. Witnesses say he grasped at the PFD for a short time but then lost hold and went under. Just a terrible and completely avoidable tragedy.

  22. #22
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    Great points otis and philbo.

    I've seen that explanation of drowning before as well and it was a real eye opener. Still my wife and I routinely stray 40ft apart or more when snorkeling, this experience has caused us to make a pact that we'll never split from here on.

    Otis, totally agree with what you're saying. I was taught basic rescue in H. S. (come behind victim, roll to back, hoist on hip and kick). but my wife hasn't and I'm realizing now we should both do our rescue diver course (we're both beginning divers, she's OW and I'm AOW) .

    You're right that a noob dive buddy can't do much, but at least they can share air. A dive course puts you miles ahead in general open water best practices and is something that has made me a much safer snorkeler.

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    Quote Originally Posted by random walk View Post
    A kid died in Mission Bay (San Diego) here a few weeks ago. He was a talented HS basketball player, an exchange student from Africa. He capsized his rental kayak, and wasn't wearing the PFD issued by the rental outfit. He allegedly did not know how to swim. Witnesses say he grasped at the PFD for a short time but then lost hold and went under. Just a terrible and completely avoidable tragedy.
    Back in 2010' a college kid who was a star athlete at Lake Perris High north of San Diego was killed by a shark off of Santa Barbara. At the time I made frequent trips to Lake Perris from San Diego for work and knew people that knew him. Very sad and to read the story of the attack even more sad.

    Romoland teen killed in shark attack - Press Enterprise
    Quote Originally Posted by mileslong View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by Procter
    3) Did you know only 20% of people needing/recieving CPR actually survive, and only 5% total return to their original quality of life without long term issues such as TBI?! Cpr saves lives. . . occasionally . Not like you see in the movies, where the person is miraculously resuscitated and appears normal in the next scene. Don't count on cpr to save you
    The #'s are WAY lower than that for people who need CPR out of a hospital setting. Closer to 1% return to original quality of life, and that is if an AED is available and used in the first few minutes.

    If you want to help, look into CCR (continuous compression resuscitation). It's the new, better CPR. Mouth to mouth during the first 5 minutes or so of resuscitation is no longer the standard of care in a lot of communities.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by random walk View Post
    A kid died in Mission Bay (San Diego) here a few weeks ago. He was a talented HS basketball player, an exchange student from Africa. He capsized his rental kayak, and wasn't wearing the PFD issued by the rental outfit. He allegedly did not know how to swim. Witnesses say he grasped at the PFD for a short time but then lost hold and went under. Just a terrible and completely avoidable tragedy.
    Yeah....that made me realize that kayaking must be a pretty exotic activity in Ghana...

  26. #26
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    Yes, tragic. I always cringe when I hear of this kind of stuff happening here (I was born and raised here in Hawaii). I feel for the family and friends who have to experience the grief of going on such a dream trip and incurring this kind of tragedy. I grew up being taught to respect the ocean. The other issue was also knowing and respecting the false sense of security things provide such as floaties, toys, rafts, balls, what ever. When you think you're safe and then something out of the expected happens (usually ingestion of water) panic easily sets in. Amazing the sense of "I want air" will force more ingestion of water.

    So hey, not to blame or anything like that. This poor person was probably swimming alone and should have had someone with her no matter how "secure" a life vest/noodle (what ever). Additionally, there's a need for good oversight by the crews because stuff like this can happen (all moot for this poor lady at this point). You don't need certification to snorkel unlike scuba. So that in itself leads to the potential danger.

    Again, yes, well said, respect the ocean..............

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