Divers urged to take care following deaths of two men in Cork
Inquest hears men ascended too quickly while diving at World War II submarine
Stephen Clarke (65) and Jonathan Scott (61) both died while diving at the wreck of German submarine U260 near the entrance to Glandore Harbour in West Cork on July 2nd 2014.
A jury returned verdicts on Thursday of death by misadventure in the case of both men who were both highly experienced divers and had come to West Cork on a diving holiday.
Mr Clarke from Capel Dorking in Surrey in the UK had completed 1,200 dives and Mr Scott from Morley, Perth in Western Australia had completed 480 dives, the inquest heard.
The inquest heard evidence at Cork City Coronor’s Court that the men deviated from the dive plan for the decompression dive and stayed too long at the wreck and ascended too quickly.
Mr Evans and his son went down first on a shot line to be followed two minutes later by Mr Clarke and Mr Scott with both pairs planning to spend 15 minutes exploring the wreck.
After spending 15 minutes at the bottom, the dive plan was that they would then spend 15 minutes coming back to the surface, stopping off at various depths to decompress.
Mr Smith told how he saw Mr Scott and Mr Clarke surface sooner than expected around 9.05am and he saw Mr Clarke signal he was okay before they both went back down again.
He was assisting Luke Evans aboard the boat when he spotted Mr Clarke surface in a floating position and with his mouthpiece out so he manoeuvred the boat close by him.
Clive Evans assisted in bringing him aboard and Mr Smith issued a May Day alert before beginning CPR on Mr Clarke who was unconscious after swallowing water.
Mr Clarke was airlifted by Irish Coastguard helicopter to Cork University Hospital where he was pronounced dead as the search continued for Mr Scott who had failed to resurface.
Mr Scott’s body was brought ashore at Union Hall Pier later that afternoon where he was pronounced dead.
Garda Dave Finn of the Garda Water Unit examined dive computers used by both men and told the inquest they had overstayed their 15 minute time on the bottom by two minutes.
They had then begun their ascent and went straight up to 24 metres before going back down to 32 metres for three minutes before then ascending straight to the surface.
Garda Finn said that it would be speculation to say what caused them to surface so quickly and miss decompression points which were crucial to avoid suffering the bends.
Diving safety scientist, Nick Bailey examined both men’s diving gear and said while it was aging, there was no reason to suggest it contributed to the tragedy.
The regulators on both men’s gear, which controls the pressure of air coming from their tanks, was not working at optimum capacity which meant they had to work hard to breathe.
Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster said that she believed that baro-pressure trauma - associated with the bends - was a factor in both deaths but to differing degrees.
She said that the cause of death in Mr Scott’s case was acute cardio respiratory failure due to drowning while diving in association with baro-trauma.
Mr Clarke, who had undergone heart surgery some nine months earlier, died from acute cardio respiratory failure complicated by heart disease in association with baro-trauma.