United States Underwater Fatality Statistics - 1973

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Title: United States Underwater Fatality Statistics - 1973
Author: Schenck, HV; McAniff, JJ
Abstract: During 1973 a survey of diving accidents involving U.S. citizens was undertaken using a clipping service, plus queries to various federal, state, and local agencies and to individual scuba divers and instructors in high activity areas. This work was completed in 1970 and 1971 under research grants from U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The present efforts are funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Manned Undersea Science and Technology Office and the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Coast Guard Underwater Safety Projects Office. Comparisons are made for the data acquired for the four years 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1973. A paper by the Manned Undersea Science and Technology Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (MUS&T, March 1975) estimates a 15 to 25 percent increase in diver population for 1971-1972 while the -numbers of fatalities have increased at less than 2.6 percent. Therefore, the fatality rate per year actually appears to be decreasing. In general, no large changes in accident patterns were detected in 1973. The total of 147 fatal accidents (123 compressed air, 24 skin diving) is only slightly higher than 1971 and 1972 totals. Geographic distribution of the fatalities is also similar with past years, with Florida and California contributing almost half the victims. weather factors were found to contribute to about 25 percent of the accidents, and Florida cave accidents showed an increase in 1973. Fewer beginning divers were involved in accidents this year and fewer of the accidents involved training. Most of the divers used the "buddy system" but buddy separation remained a serious problem, with a number of cases involving the failure of the victim to remain on the surface following a dive, plus his inability to help himself or, in several cases, to even notify his partner of his problem. Of the 49 autopsies, most showed "drowning" as cause of death. However, there were nine detected embolisms and six heart attacks, in this group suggesting that a third or more of the fatal group may have suffered an incapacitating injury at some point in their dive. No serious equipment problems were detected and relatively few of the accidents were equipment caused. Almost a quarter of the scuba group were involved in a multiple accident, ten involving two victims and one, three. The bulk of these were cave deaths, although two involved boats dragging their anchor offshore. The pattern of skin diving deaths remains variable, although fewer skin divers use the buddy system. One skin diver was killed by an apparent great white shark attack off Baja California, Mexico. Four professional scuba fatalities and five professional fatalities while using surface-supplied compressed air are treated as "special nature" cases and are excluded from the non-professional scuba tables.
URI: http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/9239
Date: 1975

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  • National Underwater Accident Data Center
    This is a collection of the National Underwater Accident Data Center, University of Rhode Island (URI) annual diving reports. John J. McAniff started collection of diving accident and fatality information in 1970.

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