It is with great sadness that i have to tell you about my friend Ulf Foss that died in a diving accident in Egypt, Marsa Shargra 26/12 2008.
Ulf You will be missed by everybody that knew you. A final salut shall be heard from CAAF. We will remembered you and miss you for sure.
Heres the story told by Aleš Laharnar, the diving buddy that put his own life at risk to try and safe Ulf Foss and Dr. Ahmed.
Hello fellow divers!
My name is Aleš Laharnar, and I am the 3rd diver in this accident. I would just like to clarify some things, sorry to write in English but my Deutsch is not that fluent.
First of all I would like to thank all the staff at Marsha Shagra, they are wonderfull people trully, and also the staf at the Baro Med hyperbaric facility!
-I am not a PSS Technichal Instructor, I am PSS trimix diver and breathold instructor, and I am SSI TXR (Technical Extended Range) Instructor.
-What & why it hapened:
I have met Ulf Foss the first day that I arrived with my wife and daughter, and since my wife is pregnant, Ulf was assignet to me as my dive buddy. Immediatelly we "hit it off", and became buddies in and out of the water. He was a really nice guy, with a big "lust for life", and he was very "aquatic", very confortable in the water with very good diving skills, as he has been diving since 1999, with a year -or -so long break in beetwen. On one occasion he dived below 40m, which was not our dive plan, and when we have surfaced, I was very angry at him for doing so, and we had a long talk that evening in the tent about the dangers of diving deep with air. I have explained it to him that it is ok to dive deep, but with proper education, proper equipment configuration, proper team procedures, dive plan and proper gasses. He was excited about that and he promised to come in june 09 to Croatia and do a Technical course with me. After that we made more dives together, and he never again did something stupid, or not stick to the plan we made. One day we decided to go and see the Baro Medical center, as I am very interested in all aspects of diving. There we met dr. Ahmed, who was working there. After Dr. Ahmed shoved us around the chamber, he asked us if he could join us for some dives, and off course, we were more than happy to go diving with him, as he vas a very nice man, and he obviously shared a strong passion for diving with both Ulf and me. Prior to the accident we have made 2 day dives and 1 dusk dive and 1 night dive together, without any problems. Dr. Ahmed was also very good and comfortable in the water, on the end of each dive Ahmed and me would always release our SMBs for practice. The day befor the accident, my family went to El Chalatin, the town close to Sudanese border, where the camel market is. Ulf joined us on that trip and we had great time together. In the evening he went to Dr. Ahmed to discuss the next day diving, and he notified me that they arraned to meet at 6a.m., so th at Ahmed could dive befor his work.
In the morning we meet at 6 a.m. sharp, and I asked Ahmed where should we dive. He suggested a "secret spot" on the south reef, where hammerhead sharks often come in the morning, he said. The depth was supposed to be 50m, and I agreed, but I insisted that we take 15l tanks instead of the usual 12l, and that nobody exceeds 50m, and only go that deep to check for the sharks, if they are not there, we begin the multilevel ascent by the reef. The first one to reach 130 Bar would notify the others and we would begin ascent. Ulf changed his tank for a 15l, Ahmed declined, stating that he has 12l tank+ 3l ponny stage, which is 15l, I said that there is never to much gas to breathe, but I didn`t want to argue, as it was true, he had 15l combined. After that, Ahmed had a long conversation with his girfriend, and that caused the start of the dive to be moved from 6.30 a.m. to 7.00 a.m. Later it has turned out that the long conversation was about the planned depth, as Ahmed said to his girlfriend that he planned to go to 70m (although we have agreed on 50m). We went to the zodiac, and the skipper went to the usual drop off point on the south reef, but Ahmed instructed him in Arabic to go more towards East (open sea).
We rolled off into the blue, stopped brifely at 10m to check, and continue our descent. At 40m (the bottom was a sandy slope at 50-55m descending further) Ahmed asked me if I could video him, and he started "playing guitar" and fooling around. After that(about 1min) I have turned around and noticed that Ulf was not in sight, but I could spot bubbles going up from the depth. At this time Ahmed was allready chasing into the depth too, at the time I thought he went after Ulf. I also started towards the direction of the bubbles, and decided to go to max 75m. At that depth I have noticed a cloud of silt and sand, and a finn on the bottom, and I knew something was relly wrong. So I decided (that was a mistake!) to go deeper and try to help. A few meeters deeper I have found another fin, and at 95,3m was Ulf lying on his back with the regulator out of his mouth. I went to him, waved Ahmed, who was at the time cca 15m to my right (south) to come and help. I put a regulator in Ulf`s mouth, turned him around, purged the regulator a couple of times, and tried to establish positive bouyancy (undo the weight belt, but he had the weights in the jacket) and swim towards surface. The swimming effort caused me to almost black out, so i stoped and we descended back to 90, (from 87m). I tried to inflate his BCD, but was not sucsessfull. Then I have checked my SPG and I could not read the numbers, all I could read was that it was below 100 Bar, and above 50 bar, so i knew it was time for me to go. I have spent 3 minutes at the depth of 95m tring to rescue Ulf. I turned around and could see Ahmed some 20-30m away, breathing and floating in the water, he was too far, so I gave him a signal to go upo, and started my ascent. I knew I was not able to do all the deco, so I decided to do some deep stops to try to avoid TYP 2 decompresion hit, so I made a slow ascent from 80-70m (2min), where I normalised my breathing, and a short 1min stop at 55 and 25m. At 15m I released my SMB and made s slow continious ascent by my spool line (10min from 15m to the surface). When I reached 3m, I decided to use all of my remaining air there, and use the last couple of breaths for a slow ascent from 3m to the surface(1 min for the last 3m). When I have surfaced it was 31min after the start of the dive, so I knew that for at least 20min there will be nobody looking for me (because we wrote exit time 8.00a.m., and it was approx 7.30a.m.). I decided to go for the shore as I did not know what kind of Deco hit will I get (but I knew I will get it 100%, as I had 87min of skipped decompression!), and I did not want to be in the water if I started loosing muscle and respiratory functions, so I orally inflated my BCD, turned on my back, raised the SMB as high as I could, and started swimming towards the reef top. When I reached the reef top, I took off my weight belt to mark my exit point for search reference, and walked about 150m to reach the jetty. On the jetty I left my diving equipment, as it was a long walk (cca 400m) to the shore, and checked for Ahmed`s SMB. Since I could not see it or him, I presumed he was dead too (it was approx 10 min after I surfaced, and I knew from previous dives that I had the lowest air consumption of all 3). When I reached the shore, I went to the road, stopped a car, and went to the dive center (my plan was to go back in the water, to do IWR, as Dr. Ahmed from the deco chamber was dead). I came to the Dive center approx 45min after surfacing, and at the time I have felt a slight discomfort in my left shoulder. When I reached the center I was immediatelly administered O2, and Mr. Mahmmut, the leading instructor said that I need to go to the chamber, as they have another doctor there. So, 1 hour after surfacing I was in the chamber, I spent there 6 hours (Table 6, max depth 20m, pure O2, 20min on, then 5min air break). The discomfort in my shoulder was gone immediately when I started breathing O2 in the Dive center, and after the treatment I was 100% ok. So, what seems to have happened is, that Ulf and Ahmed made an agreement to go deeper that the planned max. depth of 50m, and they choose not to inform me about that, as they (esspeccialy Ulf) knew my stance towards deep diving with air. I do belive that Ahmed "performace" at 40m was deliberate so that I would film him and not see Ulf starting to go deep. When Ahmed went deep to, I thought naturally that he went after Ulf, but he just went for the depth, unaware that something is wrong, which also explains why was he not close to me when I reached Ulf. Ahmed told his girlfriend that he planned to go to 70m, and in the chamber I was told that they often warned him about doing deep dives on air, so it was not the first time. I think that when Ulf started to go deep, he was finning really fast, which caused his breathing rate to go up, and the subsequent CO2 accumulation made the N2 narcosis ef fect even stronger, so when he reached 70m (or what they agreed), he was simply to narcotic to even notice that and he just kept going deeper until the O2 tox hit him at around 85-90m. As I saw Ahmed still breathing and floating in the water, I supose he was just narcotic at the time (blacking out), without the O2 tox at that time.
Lessons to be learned:
-plan your dive and dive your plan!
-always stay close to your buddy (if Ahmed was closer to me, I propably could help him)
-if you want to dive deep, do it right, with a good team of divers, with proper gases, with proper training, proper equipment (I prefer DIR style, as everybody then has the same equipment so there is no confusion) and follow all the safety rules of gas & dive planning
-when diving with somebody you don`t know, be extra carefull (and I will try to avoid that if at all possible in the future)
-if somebody violates the dive plan, wave him goodbye, and don`t sacrifice your safety when trying to perform a rescue.
Prior to the rescue attempt I have spoken with the rescue diver, and I was strongly against that kind of rescue attempt, where only one diver with TX goes to 95m, and he has 2 support divers with air at 70m!?!But he ignored my opinion.
I strongly belive that the staff at Marsa Shagra could not be blamed for this accident, Ahmed was not a dive master in this center as Nemo 2009 sugests, and he carried his 3l pony on almost all dives (also on our previous dives to 30m!). The zodiack guys are great and very proffesional, and they have ALWAYS picked me up on time, they were ALWAYS there when I surfaced. The only reason that they were not there this time is, that I was out of the water 30min earlier than planed. And because it was still very early in the day (7.30 a.m.) the sun was low on the horizont, so it was very hard to see my SMB (as they were blinded by the sun, and it was too early to even look for my SMB, because in all the prior dives I was exactly on time, not 30min early) I can only thank all the staff at Marsa Shagra, from the cleaning guys to the cooks, and especcialy Mr. Isham, the General Manager and Mahmmut the leading Instructor, and all the guys working in the dive center. It is a beautifull place, run very professionaly, and I will definately come back there as soon as possible.
best regards, Aleš Laharnar-Aljo (alex)
The reasons for me to agree to go to 50m are several: I have been diving since 1991 and started with CMAS, and as you know it is still ok by CMAS to go to 60m, but the real reason was the promise of hammerhead sharks, which I wanted to capture on my video. And I belive that if they would to as planned it would be ok! The plan was to go to max 50m, stay together at all times, if there are no sharks immdiately start the ascent, if there is something for me to film, we start the ascent when the first one reaches 130bar. I would be much easier for me to say that we made a plan to dive to 40m, but we made a plan to go to 50m if there are sharks, and that is the truth.
-Why Ahmed was not with me: I have explained that, I belive that he did not start to go deep to help Ulf, as he thought Ulf was just doing what was their "secret plan". And Ulf was not with me because immediately after Ahmed asked me to film him at 40m, he started swimming for the depth, as they (so it seems) planed with Ahmed.
-I strongly belive that the whole hammerhead sharks story was made up fo me to go to 50 (nobody else at the center could verify the story that there are HH sharks are often seen in the morning on that plateau), and even if we agreed on 40, it would change nothing, they would still run away from me to the depth. I do belive that if we stick to the plan we made, we could execute the dive safely, but let`s not get into the debate here, the fact is that the max allowed depth in the Red sea is 40m.
Thank you Aleš Laharnar for putting your own life at risk to try and safe my friend.