Charles Darwin at a green chalkboard.

2007 Darwin Awards

Honoring Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool--by removing themselves from it in the most spectacular way possible.

2007 Darwin Award Winner
Confirmed True by Darwin

An experienced 47-year-old rescue diver was filming an underwater video of a wreck 44 meters below sea level. He was in deep water, 9 meters deeper than the recreational diving maximum, which warrants special training and extra safety considerations. To keep the audio track clear, he turned off the alarms on his dive computer. His buddy, working on the other side of the wreck, did the same.

Defeating the safety... harbinger of so many Darwin Awards.

Nitrogen bubbles (the bends) are painful and occasionally fatal. But they can be avoided if a diver follows the dive table limits, and makes at least one decompression stop while ascending to allow blood gas levels to normalize.

Sixteen minutes into the dive, he was alone and out of air--a situation that should never sneak up on a diver. But he turned off the safety alarms and swam out of sight of his buddy! The diver made an emergency ascent up the anchor line. At 18 meters the divemaster tried to assist him, but the panicked diver refused to take an alternate air source. He continued his rapid flight to the surface, where he lost consciousness and could not be revived.

The cause of death: "Air embolism (nitrogen bubbles) due to rapid ascent."

Was it an accident? This experienced diver deliberately disregarded two basic safety rules: pay attention to your gauges, and stay within reach of your buddy. If he had attended to his gauges (and not turned off the alarms) he could have made a controlled ascent, including a decompression stop for safety. If he was near his buddy, they could have shared air as they both made a controlled ascent. Either precaution would have saved his life.


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Reference: Alert Diver Magazine, "Breathless on the Bottom," March/April 2007

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