1. #1
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    May 2000
    Wheaton IL

    Default Diving in other environments

    A recent discussion at the firehouse brought up this "what would you do?"
    Lets say that a worker is in an alternate entry confined space vault. It is part of a flood control project and has piping going through it that carries river water. An accident happens and the space is filled with river water drowning the worker. For whatever reason he is not on a tag line for removal. Attempts to pump the space have failed because of the damaged pipe. once full their is no current and all other utilities can be controlled.
    Would any of your teams attempt a recovery or would you call comercial divers to recover the body.
    Do you have the capability to cap the inlet in the river then pump out the space? Would you even try?

    I have been a PSD for nearly 20 years and I am confined space tech. Right now, today, I don't know if I would do it. However if planned and practiced (we have the ability to flood our simulator) I would attempt entry.

    I'm just wondering everyones thoughts and concerns.


  2. #2
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    BladesRobinson's Avatar
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    Nov 1999
    Indian River County, Florida

    Default Remember "Risk/Benefit" ... Remember YAKIMA?

    You pose an interesting question and there are no definite answers in my mind. It is a jugement call based on training, equipment and resources ... including the availablity of a commercial dive team.

    There is NO problem calling in commercial divers, especially when the risks are high and the benefits are low. This is a time when we in the PSD community must reach out to others for help. We know there have been a number of public safety diving fatalities when divers take on tasks they have not been properly trained for or didn't have the proper gear to conduct the dive operation.

    In the case of diving in an overhead environment and/or a confined space, I would prefer to use technology like an ROV. A surface supplied air system would be the minimum and I would even opt to pump the water out if that can be done. Certainly, hiring commercial divers would be at the top of my list too!

    If you recall years ago (1997) there were four divers killed in a confined space ... two recreational divers who were doing commercial work and two recreational divers who were doing PSD work (attempting to recover the first two divers).

    The article below describes the incident but it is important to note that the water was removed from the space before the original two divers were recovered, two days after the fact. True, the guys who did the recovery two days later were "divers" but the operation was considerably safer because most of the water had been pumped out.

    We should learn from this incident and vow that it not be repeated again.

    Blades Robinson, Director
    Dive Rescue International

    Labor & Industries closes diver drowning probe
    Herald staff writer

    Poor training and planning doomed two Yakima County Sheriff's rescue divers who died along with two commercial divers in a Zillah irrigation canal in March.

    That is the decision of the state Department of Labor and Industries, which just completed its investigation of the fatal diving accident. The agency decided it did not have jurisdiction over the attempted rescue because the rescue divers were volunteers. However, the regional administrator has sent a stern letter to the Yakima County Sheriff.

    "They just flat blew it," said Reuel Paradis, L&I regional administrator for Central and Eastern Washington. "It was preventable had management had all the pieces in place. In this incident, we don't believe every possible (safety precaution) was taken."

    Paradis told Sheriff Doug Blair in a letter Tuesday the sheriff's department will not be cited. If the divers had died while recovering a body for the sheriff's office, then L&I would have had jurisdiction, Paradis said. L&I has offered to work with area search and rescue teams to make sure the tragedy does not repeat itself.

    It was the most severe occupational injury case ever in Eastern Washington.

    On March 15, commercial divers M. John Eberle, 41, of Grandview and Marty Rhode, 34, of Sunnyside drowned after diving into a 2,300-foot-long irrigation canal that reached 104 feet under Cheyne Road near Zillah. They were searching for abandoned vehicles in the 13-foot-diameter underground siphon for Roza Irrigation District.

    Two divers with Yakima County Search and Rescue, Charlie "J.R." Mestaz, 37, of Moxee, and Rusty Hauber, 34, Yakima, died while trying to rescue the commercial divers. When Mestaz and Hauber did not surface within 40 minutes, a third pair of divers went in.

    Paradis also blamed supervisors who allegedly did not understand the hazards posed by the siphon's murky, nearly freezing water and confined space. The irrigation canal should have been considered a type of cave, which requires extra precautions for divers, Paradis said.

    In his letter, Paradis said all four rescue divers were undertrained and underequipped.
    Emergency supervisors apparently did not properly calculate the amount of air or decompression time divers would need, the letter said.

    "There is no evidence they had any of these things calculated in their dive plan," Paradis said Tuesday. "People were being driven by adrenaline and not by good planning."

    L&I has fined the Roza Irrigation District $37,900 for 10 violations of worker safety involving the commercial divers' deaths. Those divers did not wear lifelines, were not experienced in cave diving and ran out of air. The district has appealed the penalties.

    Sheriff Blair was out of town Tuesday and had not seen the letter from Paradis. Chief Criminal Deputy Stew Graham said he doesn't understand why the agency sent the letter if it doesn't have jurisdiction.

    "We thank the agency for their concern," Graham said. "The sheriff had many of the same concerns and addressed them early on."

    After the deaths, Blair announced the search and rescue team would no longer do rescues for overdue swimmers and instead would consider all drowning situations as a body recovery. He also plans to contract with a local professional diver to train the sheriff's divers, Graham said.

    The Zillah accident should have been treated as a recovery of bodies, Paradis said. It had been two hours since anyone had seen bubbles from the commercial divers' tanks. By then, the commercial divers could not have been revived if they were pulled from the water.

    Two days after the diving accident, Columbia Basin Dive Rescue members from the Tri-Cities recovered the divers' bodies. They spent nearly four hours planning who would go into the canal and how, said Neil Hines, dive rescue president.

    Divers followed strict rules and checklists on what to do in confined-space dives. And each diver wore a full-body harness attached to a lifeline.

    "There's so many things when you go into a confined space that you have to follow," Hines said. "You can only go with what your capabilities are. They didn't do anything by the book."

    Paradis agreed in his letter. "Diving activities ... are arguably the most dangerous activities expected and undertaken by search and rescue team members," he wrote. "It is critical for the dive team members to have the highest levels of training and equipment."

    - - - - - - - - - - - -

    A Different Kind of Hero
    Tori Hauber
    Naches Valley Combined PTSA 11.4.15

    I heard the phone ring from the bathroom, and I turned the sink off so I could hear. My mom answered and I could tell that she knew the person who had called, but it wasn't an everyday conversation. Even though I couldn't hear her words, by the sound of my mom's voice I got this sinking feeling in my gut. When I walked out of the bathroom and saw my mom's stark white, bewildered face I knew that it was dad.
    Rusty Scott Hauber had been a firefighter for over ten years. On the morning of March 15, 1997 he was called out to do his duties, not knowing that today would be different from the rest. He rushed out of the house on an emergency call in Zillah with a quick kiss for his wife. He waved to the kids as he was driving away, and his family had no idea that this was the last time they would see him alive.
    The phone call had come from my mom's best friend Teresa. She told her that Rusty was hurt and that our friends that worked with dad, Rocky and Vicky were on their way over. My mom had many questions, but it was not something Teresa wanted to tell her over the phone. Although at the time I didn't know what Teresa had said, I somehow knew that something was terribly wrong.
    The emergency call had come from Zillah. Two divers had had complications in the Zillah Canal trying to pull out an abandoned vehicle. Rusty Hauber and J.R. Mestaz were rushed in for the rescue with little warning or direction. While under water, the two divers ran across complications, and neither of them completed their mission. They were both pulled from the water nearly an hour later not breathing. J.R. was revived, but for Rusty there was no chance. What happened under the water will never be known.
    I saw the shiny red fire truck pull up in the road, telling me that Rocky and Vicky had arrived. Mom opened the door for them and Rocky walked in first, and he just stood there looking at my mom, not wanting to tell her the horrible news.
    "What's wrong Rock?" my mom asked.
    I could see the pain in Rocky's eyes when he went to answer,
    "He's gone Trace.... He's gone."
    My mom fell to the floor and Rocky reached out to catch her. I stood there, not believing what my head was telling me. He couldn't be dead, not my dad. They were talking about someone else's dad, they had to be. This is the kind of thing that only happened to people on the news, not to me, not to us.
    Rocky pulled my mom to the couch, she was sobbing into his chest. Vicky walked to my side and steered me towards the other couch, grabbing my brother on the way. She sat down between us and squeezed us tight. As the reality began to sink in I started to cry. I cried like I never had before, there was so much pain in my tears, and I felt torn like someone had ripped a piece of my heart from me.
    Rusty was placed in a funeral home in Yakima where friends and family could come say their final farewell. J.R. stayed in the hospital in critical condition, with a machine breathing for him. He died about a month after the accident. They were both cremated and given proper ceremonies through the fire department. The event hit the news every day for the next two months. It started with reports on the accident and Rusty and J.R.'s deaths. Then articles came out on the devastation the men's family and friends went through. There were articles on the many memorials that were held. The two men were seen as hero's to all. Everyone mourned their death, and everyone knew about the Heroic divers.
    I heard about the news, but I never read it. I knew what it said, it talked about two hero's who died on duty, or the two courageous men that died in a tragic accident. Of course everyone saw them as Hero's. Others only knew my dad as a firefighter, and a firefighter in general is a hero in the public's eyes. But no one looked up to that firefighter as much as my brother and I did.
    I am the proud daughter of Rusty Hauber. I knew that he was a brave and courageous firefighter, and that he saved lives everyday, but to me he was a different kind of Hero. He was my knight in shining armor, and when he held me in his arms I felt like I was in the safest place in the world. To me he was unbreakable, my superhero. He taught me how to play baseball, and how to cook a hamburger. He held me when I cried, and he scolded me when I did wrong, but I loved him for every minute of his time. When I lost him I not only lost my dad, I lost my hero. I lost the person who made me feel safe at night, who could hold my hand and it would disappear beneath his big strong fingers. I am proud to know that he will always be remembered as a heroic firefighter who died saving another man's life, but to me he will always be my hero because he was an awesome dad.

  3. #3
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    Wheaton IL


    Thanks for the feedback, I had forgotten about the Yakima incident.
    We had considered purchasing a few Kirby Morgan superlite helmets and systems, but cost is a limiting factor.
    I would agree that a line fed system with back up air is probably needed for any penitration dives. Beyond that I think I would follow a rescue plan very similar to a standard confined space entry. While "fall protection" isn't a problem because their is nowhere to fall, A tag line and retreval plan is a must. Lock out tag out procedures have to also be followed. Back up personnel trained to the same level are also needed.
    It will be a long process but I feel it is mandatory that everyone on the team be a public safety diver and not a recreational diver diving for a public safety agency.
    Again thanks for the feedback

  4. #4
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    Wheaton IL


    Oh, another thing I forgot, Communications would have to be present and working. A comm failure would abort this dive scenario, without exception.
    In our regular open water environment a comm failure in rescue mode is up to the diver and tender based on quality of line signals and comfort level of the crew.
    In the scenario presented comm failure can not have a continue option in my opinion.
    Thanks again.

  5. #5
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    BladesRobinson's Avatar
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    Nov 1999
    Indian River County, Florida


    Lt Dinelli,

    I think you are on target and have thought this scenario through pretty well. If you have good training, good personnel and a good team, they will make good decisions. I know the Kirby Morgan surface supplied air system is pricey but there is some good news coming. In a few months there will be an affordable HP surface supplied air system on the market and I believe public safety diving will be changed forever once the product goes into mass production. There will be more information on this forum once the product is released so stand by. Don't make any high dollar decisions yet...


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