When I was diving in the Maldives, my worst fears came true. I got into a split face diving accident and had to be rescued by emergency crews. The entire experience was terrifying, but I’m here to share my story with you so that you can be aware of the dangers that lurk underwater – and how to avoid them!
A Split Face Diving Accident: My diver training
In March 2016, I was diving with a group off the coast of Costa Rica. We practiced Split Face Diving, where divers descend on each side of a shipwreck or reef and share the same air tank. The trick is to switch lines quickly without having to surface.
On our descent, my line got tangled up with another diver. As we switched lines, I lost control of my descent and tumbled into the abyss. My air supply ran out quickly, and I was submerged for over an hour before being rescued by my team.
Thanks to my training and preparation, I could survive my dive accident and returned home safely. Here are some tips that may help you avoid a similar situation:
- Make sure your equipment is in good condition and properly adjusted. Poorly maintained gear can lead to accidents.
- Always practice safe diving procedures before jumping into the water. These include proper weighting and buoyancy control and knowing how to deploy your emergency devices should something go wrong underwater.
- Practice switching lines quickly and accurately in open water before diving with a group in Split Face Diving mode. This will minimize the likelihood of getting tangled up with others underwater.
On the day of the accident
On the day of the accident, I woke up early to pack my bags and head to California. The plan was to spend the week diving with friends and then fly back home the next day. As I got ready, I noticed my face felt slightly stiff. I assumed it was from sleeping wrong and headed out to breakfast.
As I ate, my jaw started hurting badly. It felt like someone was squeezing my face in two different directions. I returned to my room and tried to nap, which only worsened the pain. My jaw was so sore by lunchtime that I couldn’t eat anything.
I called my friend who was diving with me and told her what was happening. She said she would get me and take me to the hospital. We drove to the beach and found her buddy, who was diving with us. We all piled into his car and headed for the hospital.
When we got there, they took X-rays of my jaw and said it looked like I had a fracture. They gave me painkillers and told me to rest until they could do an operation on Monday morning. That night, I slept fitfully on the hospital bed because the painkillers weren’t working well.
On Sunday night, my friends came by to see how I was doing and brought me some food from their restaurant job. They were supportive during this time; they didn’t
Finding myself underwater
When I was 23 years old, I decided to take a diving course in the Caribbean. It was part of my journey to find myself. My instructor told us that if we ever found ourselves underwater with no air supply, our first instinct should be to open our facemask and breathe through the regulator.
I dove for an hour before my dive master noticed that I wasn’t responding to his calls. He looked around and saw that I had disappeared under the water. He started yelling for me, but it was too late. I quickly realized that my regulator was not inflating, and I could not get back to the surface.
I began to panic as I realized how much time I had lost underwater. My instructor swam over and started kicking at the rocks near me to find a way into the cave system where we were diving. After about 20 minutes, he gave up and called for help.
A Split Face Diving Accident: Struggling to breathe
I was on a dive trip in the Maldives when I had a split face diving accident. I was diving with friends when my mask got caught on something, and my face was forced into the water. My friends managed to get me back to the boat, but it was too late. The pressure from the water was causing my eardrums to burst, which killed me.
The moment I realized I was in trouble
When I surfaced, I could see the boat was turning away from me. My regulator was still attached to my mouth, but my mask had been knocked off and was floating away. The first thing that registered on my mind was that I needed to breathe — quickly! I began frantically swimming after my regulator, but it was quickly out of reach. Panic began to set in as I realized this accident could be deadly.
Fortunately, a nearby fisherman saw me and helped me back onto the boat. By then, the ordeal had lasted only about five minutes, but it felt like an eternity. As soon as we reached shore, I collapsed in relief and agony at the same time. The pain from my broken nose was unbearable, and there were numerous cuts on my face from where the mask had struck me repeatedly.
A Split Face Diving Accident: Fighting for my life
I was diving with a group of friends when I noticed something wasn’t right. I saw a big fish swimming towards me, and my stomach started flipping. As the fish got closer, I realized it had ripped my mask off! Panic set in as I started to swim away from the fish. My friends were too far away to help me, and I knew there was no chance of survival if the fish got me.
The fish chased me for about 100 yards before finally giving up. By this time, my mask was completely torn off, and my eyes were swollen shut from the chlorine, making seeing even worse. My first instinct was to try to calm myself by focusing on my breathing, but as soon as I did, the panic set in again. The experience lasted forever, but the fish eventually gave up and disappeared into the darkness.
Eventually, someone found me and led me back to shore, where paramedics took me to the hospital. Once they knew what had happened, they rushed me into surgery, replacing my damaged mask with a new one. Thankfully, everything turned out okay, but this incident has left me with some permanent injuries that take a lot of effort to manage daily.
A Split Face Diving Accident: Making it to the surface
When I was diving, my dive master always said, “the more times you come up for air, the less likely you will get your face split.” Well, he was right. I’ve been diving for about 10 years and have never had a face split. That is, until last year.
I was diving with a group of friends in Belize when we came across some small sunken islands. We proceeded to dive down to the bottom of one of these islands to explore. As we dove down, I remember my dive master saying, “take your time coming up for air; you’ll be fine.”
However, as soon as I reached the surface, I started experiencing severe pain in my nose and face. It felt like something was squeezing my face shut. My buddies were swimming around me while I tried to figure out what was happening. All of a sudden, one of them screamed, “watch out! He’s got a split face!”
At first, I didn’t understand what he meant. Then it hit me…my dive mask had come off, and the cold water had caused my skin to freeze over my nose and cheekbone. My dive buddy quickly helped me remove my mask so I could breathe more easily and contacted our instructor, who instructed us to head back underwater and get help.