Tragic Incident Off the Coast of Orkney: Lessons from a Diver's Fatal Accident

Tragic Incident Off the Coast of Orkney: Lessons from a Diver's Fatal Accident

Posted in:

A fatal collision involving a diver and a dive support boat prompts a safety review in the UK diving community.

(Illustration is not of actual event) On the morning of 28 September 2023, a recreational diver carrying out decompression stops died, almost certainly as a result of being struck by the rotating propeller of the UK registered diving support boat Karin. The missing diver’s body was found 3 weeks later following a seabed search conducted by a local survey vessel using side-scan sonar.

A fatal accident occurred off the coast of Sussex involving a recreational diver and a dive support boat, "Karin." This tragic event has led to an investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), underscoring critical safety concerns within the diving industry.

The incident took place on a clear day, with the diver partaking in a planned excursion. As described in the MAIB's preliminary report, the diver was struck by the "Karin" during ascent, leading to fatal injuries. This accident highlights significant lapses in safety protocols, particularly in monitoring diver locations relative to support vessel movements.

Critical safety lapses identified

The investigation pinpointed several safety issues that contributed to the accident. Key among these was the inadequate lookout on the part of the dive boat’s operator, which failed to ensure the diver’s position was clear before manoeuvring. Furthermore, there appeared to be a lack of effective communication between the diver and the support team regarding positioning and movement.

Following the accident, the MAIB issued urgent safety recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future. These include enhancing lookout practices on dive support vessels, improving communication between divers and boat operators, and reinforcing the use of safety equipment such as surface marker buoys.

Implications for dive operators

This incident serves as a crucial wake-up call for dive operators to reassess and enhance their safety protocols. It is vital to ensure that crew members are adequately trained in emergency procedures and communication. Additionally, operators must maintain rigorous standards of equipment checks and operational practices to safeguard the well-being of every diver under their supervision.

The diving community has responded by calling for increased awareness and stricter adherence to safety measures. Workshops and training sessions focusing on diver safety and emergency response are being organized across the UK. The goal is to foster a culture of safety that prioritizes the lives and well-being of participants in this adventurous yet potentially hazardous sport.

Manoeuvring a boat in areas where divers are known to be below the surface introduces unnecessary risk to a diver surfacing close by. Unless drifting or anchored, the support boat should keep a safe standoff distance from submerged divers and only move over the dive site when recovering divers from the water.