November 2021 – Newsletter

Michigan Underwater Divers

November 2021 – Newsletter

Next Meeting: Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Southwest Michigan Regional Airport, 1123 Territorial Rd, Benton Harbor, MI.

Meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.: (every 3rd Tuesday of every month EXCEPT December)

Standard Agenda – Club President / Officer calls the meeting to order.

  1. Club Officer asks if there are any Visitors and ask them to introduce themselves.

(Membership applications & club activity waiver form available from the club secretary)

  • President then presents Specific Club Information:                                                                                            
  • Item A: Emails were sent out 11/08/2021 to every current club member requesting them to acknowledge the receipt of the notice and to respond if they would be or would not be interested in a club officers’ position. Only 4 email acknowledgements were made and No email nominations for club positions or proxy voting were made. One call was made regarding one [position. Based on the nominations at the last club meeting, the following individuals have made it known that they would be available for the following positions:

President:  Amy Ailes V.P.:  Mary Beth Thar Treasure:  Ted Tomaszewski

Secretary:   Karen Mann   Newsletter:  Jim Scholz Club Web SiteKevin Ailes

Item B: Acknowledgement and election of 2022 Officers

Item C: Other items for discussion at this November Meeting as follows:

+ An email reminder was sent out to several members having expired Michigan U/W Divers Club membership. It asked that if they were interested in maintaining membership, receiving club newsletter’s and participating in MUD Club activities they were welcome to renew by contacting a club member and/or sending the club Treasure 2022 dues and updating their membership forms with any changes. So far one individual intends to renew.

+ The next club meeting will be held at the Benton Harbor Regional Airport, January 18, 2022, beginning at 7:30. 

+ Is there any question/ concerns/ discussion needed on T-shirt sales – Sweatshirt Plans – Club Hats – Club Patches, Club Tank Stickers.? If you ordered a shirt and have not picked it up, paid for it, or want it, please let a club officer know so arrangements for pickup / distribution can be made.

+ Is there interest in having a November 27th (Saturday) “Turkey Dive” at Fisherman’s Park in Benton Harbor (or elsewhere). Divers all appreciate having a tender and bubble watcher. Many hands make light work and some of our elder divers can use those other hands😊. Since social gathering are still rare is there to be a diver concession stand on site or are there other options?

  • Identify dive events upcoming or planned. (Dives & Road Trips) 

It was noted that the Adaptive Diver Clinic/ West Michigan Adaptive Diving pool event scheduled for November 20 in Grand Rapids requires participants to have a current (w/ in 48 hrs) negative COVID test.  Identify & discuss any other diving-related news important to divers.

  • Present any Show & Tell that anyone would like to share.
  • Attendees speak about current diving experiences, “lessons learned” or reinforced from a dive near miss or not!
  • Open session.
  • Club Meeting Adjourned


Scuba Equipment Issues Get This Diver in Deep Trouble

The water was too cold to dive in his wetsuit, but Eli wasn’t about to miss the chance to make this dive. He had heard stories and seen photographs of the nearly pristine wreck for years — when his chance came, he jumped at it. He just couldn’t seem to get his buoyancy under control in this rented dry suit.

Eli kept adding air to his suit and his BC, and then deflating both, but he continued to struggle. He kept feeling the air inside the suit move toward his feet, and then struggled to get trimmed out again.

The diver

At 39, Eli had been diving for about 10 years. He had made nearly 200 dives in his career, but most were in the ­Caribbean. Before this dive, he had made only two dives in a dry suit, each in a ­controlled situation in a local quarry.

The dive

Eli and his buddy made a shore entry and swam on the surface to get to the dive site. The water was cold and each diver was wearing a dry suit, although neither had formal training in its use. Their only previous experience wearing a dry suit was using them under supervision during a “try a dry suit” event at the local quarry.

 For this dive, they both rented suits from their local dive shop.

The location was a deep freshwater river, and there was current on the site. There was also some surface chop stirred up by the wind.

The water temperature for this dive was much lower than on their previous dives in the quarry, so both divers were wearing thicker undergarments for insulation than they had used previously.

 Not being familiar with their suits, they guessed at the proper amount of weight they should wear for the dive. The two divers swam 50 yards on the surface until they reached a descent line attached to the shipwreck. Once they were ready, both divers began the dive. The wreck rested in approximately 90 feet of water.

The accident

While on the wreck, the two divers became separated because of the current and poor visibility. Witnesses on the surface said Eli made an uncontrolled ascent to the surface, coming out of the ­water to his waist. He wasn’t on the surface for long, and didn’t seem to be conscious, before he descended again. No one on the surface was able to get to him in time.

When his body was found later that morning by two other divers, 40 feet ­underwater with his regulator out of his mouth, they were unable to inflate his BC because his tank was empty. They eventually dragged his body to shore and ­attempted to resuscitate him, but those efforts were unsuccessful.

Not long after Eli disappeared, his ­buddy returned to the surface alone.


A check of Eli’s dive computer showed that he made a dive with a maximum depth of 88 feet with a total dive time of 35 minutes. The stored dive information showed a sawtooth profile where Eli bounced up and down, attempting to gain control of his buoyancy.

The official cause of death in this case was drowning due to insufficient air. Ultimately, that is accurate. He ran out of air while underwater and drowned. But like most dive accidents, there are many steps leading to the accident that are triggers to the final cause of death.

Eli was unfamiliar with his dry suit. It is certainly possible to rent an appropriately sized and fitted suit, but we do not know the condition of this suit. We do know, from his buddy, that Eli ­struggled with the suit underwater. Investigators afterward determined he was wearing more weight than necessary based on the ­conditions and his equipment.

He had made a couple of practice dives in a quarry but then changed his gear configuration by adding heavier undergarments to the suit. He guessed at the amount of weight he should be wearing and did not perform a buoyancy check before he began the dive.

We know from his dive buddy that the two divers became separated underwater and from witnesses on the surface that Eli made a rapid, uncontrolled ascent. If Eli lost control of his buoyancy and failed to exhale adequately while he ascended, it is possible he suffered an air embolism and lost consciousness.

An air embolism happens when air in the lungs expands rapidly during ascent, tearing a hole in the alveoli of the lungs and sending an air bubble into the arterial blood supply. The air bubble moves to the brain, causing stroke like symptoms. This is why divers learn to exhale continuously and never hold their breath.

If this scenario is accurate, the fact that Eli’s tank was empty when his body was recovered indicates that he kept his regulator in his mouth while unconscious and breathed his tank empty, only then drowning.

An alternative is that Eli ran out of air at depth. Distracted by his buoyancy struggles, he wasn’t aware he was running low. When he couldn’t take a breath, he bolted for the surface in a panic. An embolism is still likely in this scenario, causing him to lose consciousness and sink back underwater. In this scenario, unconscious, he lost his regulator and drowned.

This scenario is possible based on the length of his dive and his struggles with his buoyancy. During the dive, he continually added air to his drysuit and his BC, and repeatedly vented them both.

He was also breathing heavily from a long surface swim in current while carrying too much weight. These factors could easily explain Eli’s using his air supply more quickly than anticipated. In this scenario, failure to monitor his air supply, brought on by his struggles with the ­dry suit, could be the trigger that led to the drowning.

It is rare that dive equipment fails and causes an accident. More often, it is the failure to use the equipment properly that is the problem. A drysuit, like ­anything else, is a tremendous tool, opening a world of diving in ­cold-water ­environments. In fact, many dry suit ­divers prefer them, wearing them in warmer water where most divers switch to wetsuits. The key is learning to use them properly.

Dry suits take practice and ­instruction to learn how to fit and use properly. You should also learn how to deal with an emergency underwater if you do lose control of your buoyancy.

On another note, Eli had made a ­couple hundred dives, but very few of them were in cold-water environments. ­Experience in one situation doesn’t necessarily carry over to another. He was used to diving in warm salt water with ­little or no exposure protection.

An experienced diver, he was a relative novice in this situation. Sometimes, as divers, we allow our comfort and familiarity to get the better of us, rather than asking for help or seeking training when things change.

Lessons for life

Seek training with equipment: Any time you make a gear-configuration change, ­especially when it is significantly different from your personal experience, seek training. Don’t just assume you can figure it out.

Perform a buoyancy check: When you change your gear configuration, don ­different exposure protection or change diving environments, take a couple of ­minutes to perform a buoyancy check to make sure your weight is correct.

Monitor your air supply: It’s easy to ­become distracted on a dive, by equipment, photography or simply the beauty of the scene. But don’t forget your fundamentals. This also goes for never holding your breath.

Experience in the environment, not just experience: Too often divers become overconfident with their personal experience but fail to realize a couple hundred dives in a lake doesn’t qualify them for a shore entry through ocean surf. Or dives in warm clear water don’t carry over to dark cold water on a shipwreck. Seek local advice or guidance in an unfamiliar environment.                  Lessons for Life.  By Eric Douglas – December 22, 2018


There is nothing more dangerous than breaking a basic safety rule and getting away with it. It removes fear of the consequences and builds false confidence.

And when You are diving and You become uncomfortable for ANY reason on the way to a dive, just before the getting in the water, or as the dive progresses, can and should stop your dive.

At the minimum, the life you save may be your own!

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