The most recent diver fatality in Florida had friends and family calling and emailing me asking my opinion on what I thought happened. While they thought that they would get an earful from me, I’m sure it was disappointing when I replied with a simple “I don’t know” followed up with a “I don’t care to speculate”. Of course, I’m not sure why they’re surprised at my response, since it’s been the same ever since I too up diving almost a decade ago.
Whenever a tragedy like this strikes, everyone within earshot wants to form an opinion long before the facts come out. Why? Well, in our new media world, we have become accustomed to instant information and answers. We want to figure things out and move on down our news feed. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, it’s just how it is nowadays. What’s the bad thing is how the media tends to feed into this. Yes, they survive on ratings and ad revenue which drives their need to provide the most compelling version of events the quickest. Often eschewing accuracy for speed, but for us as divers to truly learn from tragedy and ultimately make our sport safer, we need to sit back, not speculate, and allow the accident analysis to be done properly.
For the most part, those of us who are avid divers are an analytical bunch. I mean, we have to be, in our sport we deal with a number of variables at any given time in our dive planning, actual dive, and even afterwards over cold beverages and hot wings! That being said, after an accident it’s in our nature to try to pick apart what went wrong, even before we have all of the facts! It is in this last statement where the problems arise, we don’t know exactly what happened, so we’re basically trying to put a puzzle together with only half of the pieces while drawing our own pictures to fill in the gaps of the missing puzzle pieces! In doing that, we end up with a distorted image of what happened. So, how can we properly learn from dive accidents and all become better divers?
Well, first off, when an accident happens, no matter how much temptation there is, stay away from forming an opinion before the proper investigation is completed by the authorities. Yes, this is a feat that rivals quitting smoking for some, but it needs to be done! Secondly, respect the victim’s family, friends, and your fellow divers. We’re all a community and have suffered a loss. Let’s be cognizant of that. Finally, once all of the facts come out, let’s all have a civil discussion of what happened and how we can refine our training, equipment, and experience to ensure that it doesn’t happen again(or at the very least reduce the odds or a recurrence).
Dive accidents, while horrible, tragic, and sad, are all learning opportunities for us as divers. We just need to approach them properly, allow sufficient time for investigation, and respect each other in civil discussions while we analyze them and take steps to make our sport safer overall!