The MAIB investigation reports that the incident occurred when an experienced recreational diver, Lex Warner, fell onto the deck of the dive work boat Jean Elaine. When he fell, Warner was fully dressed and prepared for diving to a depth of 95m; he was wearing heavy equipment on his back and had additional diving gear attached to his front and sides. Although it was not immediately apparent, the report notes, it was likely that the diving gear impacted Warner’s abdomen during the fall and caused significant internal injuries.
"There was a significant risk to divers of tripping and falling when attempting to walk on the deck of a work boat in open sea while fully dressed and equipped for deep technical diving," the investigation concludes. "The effects of wearing a large amount of heavy diving equipment can significantly exacerbate the results of what might otherwise be considered a relatively minor fall. While other incidents underwater have not been considered, it is plausible that Lex Warner started his unplanned ascent, which led to his death, because he felt unwell as a result of internal injuries suffered during a pre-dive fall."
Adrian McCourt, managing director of Watkins Superyachts believes that the incident could have been avoided if proper precautionary steps had been taken. "Although the captain was aware of the demands of his working environment,” McCourt observes, “There was no evidence of a formal assessment of the risks to a fully-dressed diver moving from his seated preparation area, to the point of entry into the water. The observation may seem, in the first instance, rather harsh on the captain who may be removed from the diving operation and delegate this to the dive master, but the report does make clear that the transition from passenger to diver occurs at the point of entry into the water.”
McCourt makes an interesting point that perhaps a sufficient risk assessment was not carried out. With superyachts not only increasing dive operations across the board, there is constant risk of guests and crew falling over on deck. This incident goes a long way in highlighting the importance of risk assessment on sea-going vessels.
The full investigation report can be read here.