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Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 12:54:02 -0500
From: Bill Mee <wwm@sa*.ne*>
CC: cavers@ww*.ge*.co*
Subject: Beyond Belief - WPB Tragedy and "Official Report"
One week later and after prodigious efforts to impede our own initiative
towards recovering the victims and learning the truth,  Divers Supply
Supply (the shop the three missing and presumed dead divers originated
from)  now releases it's "official" version of events.   The description
of certain details of what happened is in sharp contrast with facts
obtained from other sources involved with the tragedy.  In my opinion,
anything put out by these people must be regarded with a high degree of
suspicion, particularly in view of their heavy handed interference with
our initial attempts to assist in the recovery.  The first documented
lie about the "Sheriffs Department authorized submarine"( The Sheriff's
Department denied any such authorization) delayed us for three days.  
To make matters worse Divers Supply  systematically threatened with
litigation  and loss of business  any charter operator who would assist
the WKPP in the search and recovery efforts.  This heavy handed and
unconscionable filibustering prevented us from diving during the several
days of good weather and sea conditions which followed the tragedy.   

It is my opinion that there is an active ongoing effort  to prevent us
from recovering the dive equipment of the victims, as this will be the
"smoking gun" which will confirm the possible criminal negligence of the
dive instructor and dive shop in the death of the Mr. Elkins.  Even the
sanitized version admits or suggests to irreconcilable negligent acts
which are clear violations of IANTD policy and procedure if not common

To start with consider the following:

The 17% oxygen in the mix  exceeds the required 1.4 ata po2.  This is an
obvious admission.

38% helium?  How did they arrive at this figure?  Does Divers Supply
have a Helium analyzer? My guess from the ensuing Charlie Foxtrot is
that something other than 17/38 was being breathed from the back tanks. 
The description of Mr. Roth's of  Mike Elkins panic smells very much
like nitrogen narcosis induced panic.  If there was something other than
the correct mix for this depth I can understand why someone might not
want us to recover the original cylinders.

"He was beginning to panic and may have exhausted his bottom
gas.  Before I could get to him with my octopus,  Mike began breathing
off his travel mix. "

The following quotation is strange:

"At this time Mike signaled to Andre that he was at his bottom mix turn
(Approximately 15 minutes into the dive.)  We then assumed our ascent
positions ."

IANTD procedures require a deep mixed gas technical dive to be turned at
1/3 of the starting tank pressure.  How could Elkin's have been nearly
out of gas almost immediately after the dive  turn if he had in fact
turned the dive at thirds?   Notice that no mention is made of what the
"turn limit" is.

Another peculiar thread is that no mention is made of the "long hose".
The only thing which is mentioned is  "Before I could get to him with my
octopus".  IANTD procedures require a long hose on technical dives for
gas sharing in just such emergencies.  An octopus is not the same as a
long hose.  I am left asking myself were these people diving with a long
hose or were they diving with an "independent" configuration with
different gases in either back cylinder?  We still have not answered
this question yet and a recovery of the original gear would satisfy
this.  We know that there is a highly flawed practice amongst some
socalled "technical divers" of having air or nitrox in one of the back
tanks and trimix in the other.  This would be a direct violation of
IANTD standards.

There are many more questions in here which require discussion which I
will leave to later posts. Obviously the gross over weighting and the
use of a narcotic and toxic travel gas in water where the risk of 
breathing it beyond its safe depth is a very real possibility are
questions which must be dealt with.  Other egregious violations of
common sense were the lack of a surface towed dive float ball which
would have assisted in supporting the weight of the negatively buoyant

"Andre handed me the buoy line to keep it clear
of us while he devoted his attention to Mike.  The liftbag deflated
sometime during this
descent.  Andre began to quickly pull it down to use to pull Mike up "

Float balls are standard operating procedure in WPB. Dive flags are
required by law.  Lift bags are unreliable at best and are notorious for
deflating or running away during a reel jam.  Using and depending on
lift bags alone for a dive like this is beyond stupid and borders on
gross negligence.  In this the charter operator is negligent for
allowing Andre to dive without a towed ball float.

As this sad and tragic incident unfolds the truth becomes more and more
horrible than anything I could have imagined.

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