Accidents et incidents de plongée souterraine aux U.S.A

mise à jour le 3/11/2008

 

Sur plus de 480 plongeurs disparus au cours d'une plongée souterraine, seuls 4 ont été retrouvés vivants par les sauveteurs.

 

Décès de Parker Turner, par Bill gavin
Décès de Parker Turner, par George Irvine

 

Rapport du National Speleogical Society 1976 - 1979 (par Steve Knutson)

La Floride compte 1400 sources ou résurgences. Du 01/01/1960 au 31/12/1971 = 79 décès accidentels en plongée souterraine en 57 accidents.

Accident: New Mexico, Blue Hole Lake Cave March 10, 1976
David Gregg (21), Mike Godard (22) and eight other university students were scuba diving in Blue Hole Lake near Santa Rosa, Guadalupe County, New Mexico. At 10:30 a.m. they began a dive. After a reasonable length of time Gregg and Godard failed to reappear. The State Police were quickly called and arrived on the scene at 11:35 a.m.
Search and recovery began at 12 noon and it was determined after the first dive that the victims were not in the main portion of the lake and had entered a cave leading off at a depth of 110 feet.
On the 11 th a search of the cave was undertaken starting at about 10:15 a.m. On the second dive, at about 2:15, Gregg's body was found in the second room at a depth of 125 feet. This body was recovered on the same dive but 11 more dives, up to a depth of 200 feet through March 13th, failed to yield the second victim. Operations were suspended when exhaust air from divers began loosening rocks creating an unsafe situation.
On April 25 operations resumed and on the third dive the body of Godard was located at a depth of about 177 feet. Another dive was necessary to recover the body.
References: T. H. Hawkins New Mexico State Police Report
March 11, 1975, April 28, 1976.
Alamogordo Daily News March 12, 17, 1976. Albuquerque Journal March 14, 16, 1976.
Analysis: Underwater caving is extremely dangerous and should never be attempted on the spur of the moment. The exact cause of these fatalities is not known, but lack of fixed lines to indicate the path of return could have resulted in disorientation, then failure of lights and finally expenditure of air supplies. Drowning is not a -vice way to die.

Accident: Florida, Devil's Eye Spring February 7, 1977
Edward Brodesser (28) and James Ketrow entered Devil's Eye Spring on the Santa Fe River in Gilchrist County, Florida at 12:35 p.m. on Monday, February 7. In the cavern they became confused and found themselves separated. Ketrow started back out and found Brodesser, drowned. Bring-ing Brodesser to the surface, lie attempted artificial respiration, then called for help from nearby persons. The High Springs Rescue Unit was summon-ed, arrived, and took the victim to the Shands Medical Center where lie was pronounced dead.
Reference: Anon. "Twenty-Eight Year Old Tampa Police Detective Loses Life Diving in Gilchrist County's Devil's Eye Spring" Gilchrist County Journal Thursday, February 10, 1977.
Analysis: Underwater cave exploration is very dangerous even when done properly. In this case it is obvious even from the limited information that they were not using safety lines to define their route.

Accident; California, Palos Verdes Peninsula Sea Cave June 11, 1977
On Saturday, June 11, Patrick Ivicevich (16) and Robert Cowan )16) of Harbor City were swimming at a rocky ledge that juts out from Inspiration Point near Portuguese Bend on Palos Verdes Peninsula. The two were periodically diving into the water 10 to 15 feet below the ledge. One of the youths jumped in just as a powerful wave crashed in and was swept into a partly submerged cave. A fisherman, Mike Wilson, in a rubber raft, paddl-ed furiously against the current to reach the two. As he approached the cave another huge wave struck, overturning the raft and casting him into the cave. Nearby beach-goers rushed along the rocks to help but could do nothing in the treacherous surf. Cowan was soon swept back out of the cave, was given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by onlookers and revived. Fifteen minutes later the tide brought out the dead body of his companion. Cowan received only minor injures. The fisherman's body was not recovered.
References: David Rosenzweig Los Angeles Times June 12, 1977 p 1. AP The Bakersfield Californian June 13, 1977 p 3.
Analysis: This was not a voluntary caving trip. Even so, some awareness of the hazard posed by the wave-by-wave flooding sea cave by those carrying on recreation activities near it might have saved the two lives lost.

Accident: Florida, Peacock Slew Cave July 30, 1978
On Sunday, July 30, Tim Thomlinson (26), Mike Stephens (21) and Steve Romero (Marine 1st Lieutenant) were scuba dicing in an area called Peacock Slew in Suwanee County, Florida. They were exploring an underwater cave and had strung a safety line into it. for some 200 feet. Apparently they had then gone beyond the line, become disoriented in the zero-visibility, silty water, run out of air, and drowned. The bodies were found 80 feet below the surface, 250 feet into the cave and only 15 feet beyond the end of their safety line.
Reference: UPI "3 Scuba Divers Drown" The Marietta Daily Journal Monday, July 31, 1978 p 7-A.
Analysis: Cave Diving is very hazardous and takes special equipment, plan-ning and training. There is too little info here to determine the exact cause of this fatality.

Accident: Texas, Jacob's Well September 2, 1978
On Saturday, September 2, Steve Walker (23) and Richard Taylor were scuba diving in Jacob's Well, southwest of Austin, Texas. The well is a water-filled cave, one resurgence for the Edwards Aquifer. It is open for diving only to licensed divers and Walker, an experienced diver, had ex-plored in Jacob's Well on previous occasions. Both divers were students at Houston Baptist University.
The two proceeded to the "Third Chamber", some 110 feet below the surface where Walker removed his tanks and pushed into a narrow passage. There he became stuck, perhaps from shifting gravel, and tapped on his tanks for help. Taylor could not pull him free. He drowned when his air supply failed.
A volunteer force of divers from Austin, San Marcos and Wimberly spent nearly 24 hours removing the body. Reference: Ronald Powell "Diver Drowns in Jacob's Well" Austin
American-Statesman Sept. 4, 1978.
Analysis: Insufficient regard for the hazards of underwater cave explora-tion.

Accident: Georgia, Anderson Spring Cave March 3,1979
On Saturday morning at 11:30 a group of 11 cavers entered Anderson Spring Cave on Pigeon Mountain near LaFayette, Georgia. These were stu-dent members of the Outdoor Club of Georgia Southwestern College, their leader Barry Beck (40), an assistant professor of geology, and Beck's son, Eric (13). The students, all in their late teens, included Cheryl Gillis, Tony Able, Mark McKoy, Tony Johnson, Mary Faye Smith, Warren Moore, Dennis Hudgins, Louis Pounds and Steen Madsen. Beck and his son are ex-perienced cavers, the rest were not. All were well-equipped with hard bats, spare lights, warm clothes and a lunch.
At between 3 and 3:30 they neared the end of the large effluent stream passage, nearly a mile from the entrance. Lunch was eaten and Johnson, having lamp trouble, and Eric Beck, getting cold, decided to leave. The other vine continued to a breakdown choke and unsuccessfully explored it for an hour. At this point they decided to leave the cave.
Meanwhile, outside, a thunderstorm described by some as the worst in decades struck the southeast. Up to 15 inches of rain fell in some areas. Torrents of rain descended on Pigeon Mountain.
As the cavers headed for the entrance the rising water was noticeable. Former drips from the ceiling were now gushing water. In the large passage the rising cave stream meant little, but the entrance area is constricted, so they hurried on. To their dismay they found the entrance passage nearly fllled with water. Two students, McKoy and Able, wanted to push on out and received Beck's permission. Fortunately the passage had not quite sumped and they exited successfully. The rest retreated upstream and climbed breakdown to an upper level to wait out the flood. They were wet to the neck but huddled together to stay warm and also exercised every hour. After 8 to 10 hours their clothing dried and their stay became quite tolerable.
In the meantime the four who had left contacted the Walker County Civil Defense. Other agencies were alerted, and late Saturday an attempt was made to enter the cave but the force of water flowing out made this im-possible. Sunday morning, four scuba divers from the Walker County Cave Rescue Squad were also beaten back by the water flow just inside the en-trance. The National Cave Rescue Commission coordinated the flying in by the Air Force of a special hypothermia treatment team from Virginia. At around 7 p.m. on Sunday two divers struggled through a 60-foot near-sump with a strong current of 45 degree water. When they entered the large passage they found the cavers already prepared for an attempt at leaving. Using an extra regulator on one of the scuba tanks, the trapped cavers were escorted one-by-one through the 4-inch air space of the near-sump. The last person was out 33 hours after entering. The cavers were checked at a near-by hospital and found to be in good condition. References: Edgar Miller "7 Explorers Rescued from Cave Near
LaFayette" The Chattanooga Times Monday, March 5, 1979 p 1, 2. Associated Press "Cave Rescue" Bakersfield Californian Marcb 5, 1979
1979 p 1, 2.
Editorial "Daring Diver Rescues Seven Trapped Cavers" Inside Connection (Southern Bell Telephone Company Newsletter) May 1979 p 1, 9.
Editor "Divers Save 7 Trapped in Cave" New York Daily News
March 5, 1979.
Barry Beck "The Long Wait Underground" NSS News May 1979.
p 103-104.
Editor "Two Southeastern Rescues" NSS News April 1979 p 92-92. Analysis: Entering the cave in the face of bad weather is perhaps excusable in this case since the leader was familiar with the cave and knew that even heavy ordinary rain would not close it. However, when the entrance was found to be nearly sumped wheh they first went to leave, no one should have been allowed to make the attempt to get out. If the low air space had gotten lower as Able and McKoy proceeded they might have panicked and drowned in an attempt to force their way. Better for all to wait it out.

Accident: Texas, Jacob's Well September 9, 1979
Shortly after midnight on September 9, Kent Maupin (20) and Mark Brashier (20) and a few others made a dive into Jacob's Well, near Wimber-ly, Texas. Maupin was an experienced diver-an assistant instructor and part-time employee at a dive shop.
The entrance to the Well is a smail crevice in the bottom of Cypress Creek. For some distance the clear waters and spaciousness provide for safe diving. A point is reached, however, beyond which few had penetrated. This squeeze was rumored to lead to a vast room and had previously claim-ed the lives of four divers. Maupin had spoken of making this penetration but on September 9 had not done the planning nor gotten any specialized equipment for such-no backup lights, no safety line.
At the squeeze Maupin and Brashier apparently decided on impulse to go for it. In turn each removed his tank and backed into the crevice, pulling his air supply after him. Another diver, Joe Moye, saw this and flashed his light to get their attention, with no effect.
Moye's aluminum tank held more air than the steel tanks of Maupin and Brashier and with their deeper exploration, their air consumption would be greater. With his own air supply running low, Moye finally had to leave. He banged hopefully on his tank with his knife, but no response came. He left his light shining at the squeeze and retreated. Just after he reached the surface, the clear water became silty-an impenetrable brown. Whatever the reason, it meant the lost divers woulà not be coming out.
The police were called and the Hays County volunteer body-recovery unit put together a team of four divers. They arrived at the Well before dawn. The other members of the original diving party had gone back in with no success but one diver, in the course of two ninety minute dives, claimed to have seen the bodies buried in a pile of grave. t'wo divers went down but failed to see any bodies, only that the squeeze was almost closed with gravel. It was decided to get more divers.
At 10 a.m. on the 10th of September two divers went down and tried to move gravel with trowels to make a passable space, but failed. Don Dibble, the leader of the rescue team, then descended with another diver to assess the situation. Using a safety line and with ten minutes of air left, he cautiously entered the squeeze. Observing with his light it seemed obvious that the gravel bed would have to be removed before body recovery would be feasibîe. At that point Dibble himself was suddenly trapped by a gravel slide. Both arms were pinned-he could neither jerk on the safety line nor bang on his tank. He frantically tried to release himself and in a short time was out of air. As he prepared to die, his body automatically went into its final spasms and, amazingly, he lurched free. However, when given the regulator of the spare tank he inserted the mouthpiece and inhaled with sufficient force that he swallowed air as well. He tried to belch but couldn't. As he surfaced, the air expanded and caused extreme pain. He suffered a ruptured stomach wall and subsequent peritonitis-he was in-itially diagnosed as suffering from an embolism and it was sometime later before his true condition was realized from X-rays.
Another expert was called in and also was of the opinion that the gravel would have to be removed. A professional diving company was contracted. After a week of removing gravel with a suction device, a worker was pinned by a slide. Another diver was sent down and the trapped man was safely released. Two more days of dredging went on and a passage was opened enough to allow a videotape camera on a broom handle to be thrust through. It showed a "low, broad, vaulted room" of uncertain size. Replays of the tape allowed a glimpse of a tank valve and regulator mouthpiece to be identified.
A day later, with more gravel cleared away, a diver made it almost to the end of the squeeze passage. The floor dropped off into the chamber seen on the camera. No scuba gear and no bodies were seen, though it was possible they were above the observer since the ceiling could not be seen. To actually enter the room would require the removal of two large boulders.
At that point operations were suspended while the funding was clarified. Two days later the crew was back at work with their previous efforts nullified by a refill of gravel. It soon became obvious that their efforts were futile. A second professional opinion was the same-call off the body recovery. The recovery efforts had taken 12 days. Three months later a bar-rier was constructed, sealing off the Well at the 75 foot level. References: Stephen Harrigan "Down in the Depths" Texas Monthly
February 1980 p 96-99, 162, 164-166.
Lee Kelly "Two Divers Drown While Exploring Well" Austin American-Statesman September 10, 1979.
Lee Kelly "Scuba Tragedy" ibid. September 12, 1979.
Sue Story and Tom Cotner "Divers Warned of Underwater Cavern's Dangers" ibid. September 16, 1979.
Analysis: Cave diving properly conducted is very dangerous. To cave dive without planning and proper equipment would seem to be insanity or ex-treme stupidity. What is it, then, that seizes normally sane, intelligent people and leads them into situations such as this?
The involved recovery operations in this double fatality point out a blindness common among adventurous people. It is often stated by those undertaking exceptionally hazardous and perhaps foolhardy enterprises that no one should come for them if they fail to return or that no one should worry about recovery of their body if they are killed. Those making such a statement apparently feel better about their activities since it is then only their lives placed in jeopardy. This is rank foolishness. Society places a great value on human life and even on the human body and insists upon going to great expense and even the endangering of other lives to recover one of its own, even if already dead.

Accident: California, Santa Cruz Island Sea Cave December 2, 1979
At about noon on Sunday, Decèmber 2, Tom Campbell, Cindy Camp-bell (27) and Dr. Bruce Smith (30) decided to go scuba diving to hunt lobsters in a partially submerged cave. Leaving Campbell's 27-foot boat they entered the cave. They were about 100 yards in when they stirred up enough silt to obscure their vision. Becoming uncertain about the direction out, they decided to wait. About four hours later they realized they might not have enough air left to maire it out, so Tom Campbell took a tank from one of the others and headed out. The other two braced themselves against a sloping rock in an air space and kept out of the water as much as possible.
Campbell found the exit at about 6 p.m. but suffered car trouble and diz-ziness and could not find his way back. He was overheard talking to a friend on radio by the Coast Guard and a Ventura County Sheriff's Department Searcn and Rescue Diving Team was sent off at about 8 p.m. At midnight they were at the scene and were guided to the cave by Camp-bell. The other two were found in good shape and were out of the cave by 3:30 a.m. Monday, having been trapped for about 14 hours. Reference: John Kendall "Two Divers Trapped 14 Hours" Los Angeles
Times December 4, 1979 Pt 1, p 3.
Analysis: The divers were not prepared for underwater caving. They used no safety lines and had only flashlights. If the cave had been more complex, Campbell might not have gotten out. If they had had powerful lights, the silt might not have trapped them.

Octobre 2003 -TU cave (Clarksville, NY- USA) : durant une séance de désobstruction subaquatique dans une siphon en fond de grotte, un plongeur se fait enterrer sous le sable dans une étroiture où il sétait engagé la tête en premier et décède par manque dair.

13/06/2004 – Eagle’s Nest (Floride – USA) : deux plongeurs confirmés et certifiés (36 et 44 ans), qui s’étaient rencontrés sur un forum internet, s’engagent dans cette source réputée pour sa clarté, la largeur de ses conduits et sa profondeur pour une plongée de 2h30.
Ils sont équipés de scooters, de bi-bouteilles dorsaux et de 4 bouteilles-relais chacun.
Le corps du premier est retrouvé rapidement les blocs vides, sur le chemin du retour, dans la zone des –60.
Il faudra plus d’une demi-douzaine de plongées pour retrouver le second, emmêlé dans le fil au-dessus de son scooter, dans une alcôve latérale.
Il semblerait que le premier ait épuisé son gaz en cherchant son collègue, dans l’eau troublée par le sable, qui aurait lâché le fil pour inspecter une amorce de galerie et se serait égaré.
La source, interdite depuis 1999, venait tout juste d’être ouverte à la plongée (juillet 2004).

23/08/2004 – Devil’s ear (Floride – USA) : un plongeur non formé à la plongée souterraine plonge dans la vasque sous le regard de trois de ses amis. Après avoir rejoint la surface à plusieurs reprises, il annonce qu’il descend finir son bloc. Il décède dans la cavité. Il aurait bu de l’alcool avant de plongée.

11/03/2008 - Devil's system, Ginnie Springs (Floride USA) : Un plongeur expérimenté en recycleur mais débutant ne plongée souterraine, atteint un départ de galerie étroit à 1000m de l'entrée. Il décapelle son recycleur électronique dorsal pour s'engager en circuit ouvert et à l'anglaise dans le passage. Lorsqu'il rejoint son recycleur une heure plus tard, avec peu de gaz dans ses bouteilles, il le retrouve noyé avec la bouteille d'O2 vide (du fait du contact de l'eau sur les cellules, qui a activé l'injection d'O2). Le plongeur consacre tout ce qu'il lui reste de gaz à essayer de purger son recycleur. Dans l'eau troublée, il se retrouve à court d'air et se noie.

19/09/2008 - Jackson Blue Cave (Floride USA) : Un plongeur subit une crise hyperoxique, certainement du fait de cellules O2 et de chaux périmées.