Diving and Drinking Do Not Mix

A drunken diver dives too deep, runs out of air and gets severe DCS after emergency ascent.

Reported Story

The instructor/lead diver, of a charter boat that I was on, experienced decompression sickness while diving drunk.

On the first day of the trip, we landed in Caribbean and were bused to the resort. The resort informed us that no one dives on the first day and must wait until the following day for briefing. The trip leader and his girlfriend, who is a divemaster, had been drinking rum drinks all day during travel and after arriving at the resort. That first night, my newly certified girlfriend and I, a PADI divemaster, were standing in the water enjoying the stars when we noticed the instructor and his girlfriend had geared up and walked past us to make a night dive. I spoke to them and suggested that they should wait until tomorrow to start diving. The instructor said, “I am an instructor and she is a divemaster. We have been here before. We will return soon.” I told him I will stay in the water until they return for safety.

One hour later, the girlfriend left her buddy and returned to the beach. I asked her where her other team member was. She said, “We were at 160 feet (49 meters) and he kept going deeper. I tried to grab him but I couldn’t so I said, I’m out of here!” I then informed her that she was a divemaster and left her buddy who might very well be in trouble. I told her that she needs to go tell the dive shop emergency alert team. She walked off.

That’s when I heard, in the open ocean, the instructor screaming for help. I sent my girlfriend to get the dive shop emergency team and I swam to the sound. It was very dark but, I noticed that the instructor was hurt and he had removed his BCD while floating on the vest. I flipped him around to tell him I had him. His breathing was slow and short, his ears, eyes, and nose were bleeding. His airway was clear. At that time, the emergency team arrived and picked him up by boat and took him to the beach where the island ambulance was waiting.

I swam along with his BCD back to the resort. I then took his dive system to the chamber for the local team to read his computer. His computer was flashing DECO at 245 feet (75 meters). It appears that he had run out of air and shot himself to the surface.

My girlfriend is a doctor of pharmacy and knew the instructor so she stayed with him for two days. After a report that he could not walk or feel anything below his waist, I called DAN for a diver down evacuation to a mainland USA hospital. The DAN team got a private jet that afternoon. We loaded him and they had him in the hospital by that afternoon. I ended up as the trip leader the rest of the week. When we returned home, both my girlfriend and I went to visit him. His back had nerve damage and now walks but only with a walker to hold onto. Diving and drinking do not go together.

Edited by Jeanette Moore