On 16 April 1997 Hennie Pretorius died while participating on a TDI Trimix Instructor course. Hennie was a friend and diving partner to many. The TDI Trimix Instructor course was attended by initailly 4 candidates, but only three continuted to complete the dives. There was Hennie, myself and one other instructor from Cape Town. Besides the course director, there was also one Technical Instructor. The dives were to be executed on an unknown wreck of the south east coast of South Africa near Port Alfred. All we know was the wreck lay in 80 meters (264') of water. As part of the planning, the local NSRI was briefed how to handled diving emergencies of this nature. All ships passing by were alerted of the diving operations to occur in the area - we were diving in the shipping lane. A tracer boat was to accompany the main diver boat, skipped by one of the NSRI members. Dive planning was attended by all the candidates. Using the Abyss Decompression Software package the age, fitness levels, weight, age and history of previous DCI were taken into account. Hennie had DCI some 18 months earlier - this was taken into consideration. The Abyss provided us with a physiological score of 63. All dive profiles were to include J factor of +5 meters on all depths. All the dives were to take place using the following gases: Bottom: Heliair 50:38:12 Travel: Nitorx 32, switching at 40 meters Deco: Nitrox 80, switching at 6 meters. The first two dives were executed on the wreck which did bottom at 80 meters. Some 12 nautical miles off shore. The visibility was poor, no natural light and only 5 meters by flash light. We, the candidates decided that the last dive we wanted to get closer to 100 meters (325'), and further off shore were whe should have better visibility. Due to the gradual slope of the bottom, it meant that we needed to double the distance of shore to 24 nautical. The dive was executed in near perfect conditions. A slight swell with little or no wind. There was a considerable current though. The max depth planned for was 100 meters (plus the 5% J factor). The maximum depth attained was 108, by my self. Hennie had reached 105m as reflected by his Aladin pro after his death. Hennie had teamed up with Steve, the Course Director. The ascend was started on 11 minutes as planned. I lost sight of Hennie for a while but we remeet while executing our deco stops. Steve completed his deco stop and excited the water. Hennie moved over towards me and continued to stay in the water for another 2 minutes - this was over and above the required deco schedule. Hennie was very joyious and happy about the dive - so was I. Bottom temprature of 24 degrees Celcius and visibility reached the 30 meter mark. No flash lights were required. Hennie and I exchanged notes on slates while he was with me. he signled that he was going to surface. I stayed anoth 2 minutes before surfacing. I was accompanied by one of the support divers at this time. As I reached the surface, Hennie, some 20 meters away from me shouted he did not feel well. I sent my support diver over to him. By the time the support diver had reached him, he had already lost conciousness. Immediately evacuation procedure are kicked into place. Hennis was removed from the water and loaded into the tracer boat which speed back to the harbour in Port Alfred. Emergency services were contacted by HF radio, switching to mobile phones once within working range. From the harbour, Hennie was flown at low level to the chamber at East London. As of the time of hime losing conciousness, it took lees than 3 hours to get him into the chamber. Hennie never regained conciousness, but during the chamber treatment it was noted that he was paralysed on his left side. After the chamber treatment, he was sent for Brain scans. There were signs of air/gas trapped behind the brain. Hennie was resubmitted for subsequent chamber treatment the next morning. He passed away while in the chamber. The final diagnosis was death by misadvanture, created by an AGE. It was suspected the the AGE occured on the Brain. The day of Hennie's funeral, TDI(SA) held an independant investigation. On the panel were Nuno Gomes, Johnny van der Walt and Dr mark Victor. Present was Roly Naaiman and others. This very much brought all the great name in SA technical diving together. The investigation was open to any member of the public who had any interest in the accident. The investigation revealed that NO HUMAN ERROR OCCURED TO CAUSE THE DEATH OF HENNIE PRETORIUS. Department of Manpower investigated Hennies equipment and analysed the gas used, it proved to be well within the required specifications for the use there of. The SA Police Services also completed their investigation and could not find any human error in the whole diving or rescue operation. I trust that this information suffices all your questions that you may had. Should you require any further indepth information, feel free to contact the TDI(SA) office. My thanks to Elsie Pretiorius, Hennie's wife for allowing me to extract some information from a article that she forwarded for publication in the Divestyle 9a South African Dive magazine). The article was never published. Dennis Harding -- Send mail for the `techdiver' mailing list to `firstname.lastname@example.org'. Send subscribe/unsubscribe requests to `email@example.com'.
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