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Diving Safety, Accidents and Incidents Post here to discuss accidents, incidents, ideas, gear, or anything else to improve spearfishing safety. Memorials and condolences threads should be placed in that separate forum.

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Old 05-07-2008, 02:12 PM   #1
Louis Rossignol
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100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

Unlike the thread, You know youre a rig diver when

My goal here is for everyone to have a safe diving season this year. And a lot of new people are trying rig diving for their first time.

Im not creating a thread to support some kind of macho attitude
, I just want to share my experiences under the rigs off the coast of Louisiana. And hopefully somebody reading this will learn something that maybe will save their life. Im not trying to come off as some kind of know it all, in fact if I were to have to get re certified, there would be no way I could pass the written test.

I welcome all the questions you may have on this subject. And I hope this thread will be ongoing for some time. Im also going to link this thread up with the Hell Divers website.
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Old 05-07-2008, 02:22 PM   #2
Louis Rossignol
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

As you guys know, the Hell Divers Rodeo is coming up, people are going to challenge the environment and bend the rules of diving trying to win trophies. Just remember, it’s only a trophy. I’ve let go of several fish I couldn’t handle whether my situation was compromised or the fish was just plain winning. A fish isn’t worth dying for.

Dangers can come from any number of places at the rigs. Not just fish. You’re under a structure where there is welding and cutting going on. A lot of what is being cut is dropped to the bottom of the gulf. Can you imagine just minding your own business at 100’ and a 15’ piece of steel grating comes crashing down on top of you sending you to the bottom with it?


They have work boats that back up to the rigs with large propellers that can suck you up and spit you out, such is the way I lost one very good friend.

I have seen rigs all of a sudden spit out drilling mud, coming out of a pipe that’s 3’ in diameter and if our boat had been tied up to it at the time, it would’ve surely filled our boat and sank it.

Does anyone here know what H2S is, Hydrogen Sulfide, one sniff and you’re dead.

Howabout why we don't dive very close to the floaters. They have suction pumps to keep them level and have a grating to keep garbage from clogging the pump. Can you imagine what would happen if you got caught in that suction. You come out the other side like speghetti.

Most of the people that die at the rigs are never found, and no one knows what happened to even the ones that are found. What could have gone through that persons head before their final moment? What kind of struggle were they engaged in to cause their demise?

I have evaded death at the rigs more times than I care to think about, but I will try to rehatch those painfull memories and give everyone else something to think about when they are at the rigs.
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Old 05-07-2008, 02:28 PM   #3
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

1. Slipping the loop of your riding rig over our wrist, instead of your thumb.

2. Not looking or "feeling" above you during ascent. Cross members in any sort of swell are right dangerous.

3. Hugging a bristleworm during a wrestling match. BTDT

4. Getting "inside the loop" when fighting an entangled shot fish. Having a fish lash you to the rig with stainless cable is generally not a good thing.

5. Not watching depth changes and remaining air while hunting. (This should be automatic if diving deep rigs.)

6. Shooting a sea monster you aren't prepared to deal with. Shoot up in a gradient.

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Old 05-07-2008, 06:42 PM   #4
Louis Rossignol
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

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2. Not looking or "feeling" above you during ascent. Cross members in any sort of swell are right dangerous.

Good points Fred,

I lost another good friend that was skin diving, he shot into a huge barracuda and the fish dragged him from the surface to 50'. He managed to wrap his gun around the pipe, then he shot to the surface starving for air and 2' before the surface he hit this round pipe just under the waters surface. He then sank back to the bottom.

We recovered his body 3 days later, the coroner said, even if we'd have gotten him on the boat before he drowned, he'd have been a vegetable from the head injury.

His name was Warren "Whip" Mermilliod. A 25 year veteran of the Hell Divers.

I have to say that on a deep dive 4 years ago, I was getting a little too cocky and almost did the same thing.

We bounced down to 230', we all shot very nice ARS. I shot up from there and just scraped my head on a pipe which at over 200' could have meant death.

Most rigs have a very similar pipe structure, but sometimes they are a little different. The one that Whip died on was a unique structure, I've never seen another like it in the Gulf. The one that I almost messed up on had diagonal pipes in the structure unlike most other rigs too.

Hand over Head, good rule to follow.
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Old 05-07-2008, 06:56 PM   #5
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

Quote:
1. Slipping the loop of your riding rig over our wrist, instead of your thumb.
The way I wrap the riding rig around my hand is over my thumb the backwards over my hand, I can always let go. I've seen others run their rope through a piece of hose pipe before splicing the loop. They claim they can always let it go that way.

Quote:

4. Getting "inside the loop" when fighting an entangled shot fish. Having a fish lash you to the rig with stainless cable is generally not a good thing.
I have done the "hand to hand combat" thing for years, I'm older now and hopefully smarter, I don't grab fish anymore. Best bet is to just start pulling them up. Don't get close if you don't have to.

With that being said, I'll tell you how I messed that up, just yesterday. I shot a nice 40lb. Cobia high in the back. Only thing holding him was his dorsal fin. So I still didn't grab him, but what I do as a safer alternative is hold the shaft and try to get only close enough to the fish to get my knife in his head. In all the turmoil the fish runs into my waist and knocks my weight belt loose. Next thing you know my 20lb. weight belt fell to the bottom and 7mil wetsuit started to float me to the surface. I grabbed onto a pipe and controlled my ascent without much of a problem.

When I got to the boat and landed the fish, we realized we didn't have anymore weights on the boat. So there was no way I was gonna dive with th 7mil wetsuit anymore. I dove the rest of the day in my tighty whiteys with a hammer in my BC pocket and the only 1 lb. weight we could find.

Leson, learned? I've had my regulator knocked out of my mouth and mask off my face way too many times, don't grab the fish dummy!
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Old 05-07-2008, 07:06 PM   #6
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

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Originally Posted by Louis Rossignol View Post

Leson, learned? I've had my regulator knocked out of my mouth and mask off my face way too many times, don't grab the fish dummy!
I have never dove a rig, and the average fish you guys seem to shoot is larger than most fish I have taken, but I always try to grab the fish and control it myself. Seems that your advice is opposite of what I (try) to do.

If you did not have structure to wrap the line around and presumably assist in climbing back up, would you still try to just swim/float a large fish up? Or would you technique change in a more open or typical diving environment?

Seems like an excellent thread so far, but I don't understand a lot of what you guys are talking about with mud pads etc.
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Old 05-07-2008, 07:22 PM   #7
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

Quote:
Originally Posted by jfjf View Post
I have never dove a rig, and the average fish you guys seem to shoot is larger than most fish I have taken, but I always try to grab the fish and control it myself. Seems that your advice is opposite of what I (try) to do.

If you did not have structure to wrap the line around and presumably assist in climbing back up, would you still try to just swim/float a large fish up? Or would you technique change in a more open or typical diving environment?

Seems like an excellent thread so far, but I don't understand a lot of what you guys are talking about with mud pads etc.
I been saying for the last couple of years, "I ain't married to that rig". Meaning I'd rather fight my fish in open water. In only desperate situations when I'm flying to the bottom will I even consder wraping the fish around the rig leg. Usually when you wrap a large fish he gets the leverage to tear off the tip.

I have no idea what Fred's talking about either with mud pads.
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Old 05-07-2008, 02:32 PM   #8
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

Alcohol poisoning....
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Old 05-07-2008, 02:51 PM   #9
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

How often do we dive in ripping currents where you have to descend next to a leg just to keep from getting blown off? Everyone should have a plan before getting in the water. We don't dive without someone on the the boat watching. I've been blown off a rig and a safety line off the stearn is the only thing that got me back to the boat. Same thing happened to another experienced diver here last year.

Everybody should think very damned seriously about what they would do if they found themselves at 120 foot, low on air, outside the rig, not able to see the rig, and don't know which direction or how fast you're drifting. Personally, I feel a lot better knowing there is a guy back on deck who has seriously thought about the same situation.
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Old 05-24-2008, 12:41 AM   #10
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

A friend of mine just moved to Houston. Any good spearfishing near by?
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Old 05-07-2008, 06:23 PM   #11
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

Great thread Louis!!

I will emphasize the depth/air thing. The water can be so clear that with no bottom you can really lose track of your depth & consequently use air very quickly with a long swim up.
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Old 05-07-2008, 06:55 PM   #12
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

7. Shooting a Tuna in the murk, in the ass. Makes for a very long ride home with a dislocated shoulder.
8. Entanglements! Near shore rigs are often a sea of lost mono and shrimp nets. be sure you can strip your gear to clear any, and a razor letter opener from an office supply place is good to clear mono you can't reach easily. Keep your knives SHARP as well.
9. Sharks generally stay outside the rig. Be especially aware of any INSIDE the leg pattern, as he'll have diminished and confused electromagnetic sensing capability from the currents generated by the rig's anodic protection system. They'll be especially unpredictable.
10. Gas bubbles coming from underwater BEFORE you get in are a bad sign. If a gas leak is down there it can decrease the buoyancy of the water your boat is floating in, to the point it won't.
11. If the guys on the rig suggest you don't dive that one, politely move on. Usually they are NOT just being assholes, but know of a service boat schedule or other thing happening that could be bad news for you in the water. Assholes there are out there, but few survive long in the offshore environment. Spare beer usually works to sort those out.
12. Do NOT piss off the guy on the rig welding. Welding rods are bad news after a 70' free fall, and have been known to penetrate fiberglass decks & engine cowlings, as well as divers.
13. The lower murk is an interesting place to hunt, but many rigs have mud mats that have been scoured out to provide a space under them. Stay OUT of these spaces as finding your way out when narked with near zero vis and low on air is more than a little problematic. Think cave diving without a line. There may be a worse way to die than drowning in the dark, but I don't think they let the Apache women do it any more. If taking a big fish into the mud to pack his gills with mud and get him under control do it OUTSIDE the rig footprint!

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Last edited by FredT; 05-07-2008 at 10:05 PM. Reason: Typos
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Old 05-07-2008, 09:01 PM   #13
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

thanks, Do you use high volume bc like old scuba pro stab jacket or something? I don't normally have a lot of lift capacity in my bc.
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Old 05-07-2008, 09:56 PM   #14
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

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thanks, Do you use high volume bc like old scuba pro stab jacket or something? I don't normally have a lot of lift capacity in my bc.
I use as much as I can get on a single tank wing. Do a search for "bristle worm" and you'll find a post explaining why. I used both a bat-wing and a stab jacket before they wore out, about 15 years apart. The backplate/wing is a good approximation of the SP BCP bat-wing.

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Old 05-07-2008, 11:42 PM   #15
Louis Rossignol
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Re: 100 Ways for a Rig Diver to Die

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thanks, Do you use high volume bc like old scuba pro stab jacket or something? I don't normally have a lot of lift capacity in my bc.
As long as I can remember, the LCUDC has a rule against the use of a BC to jack up a fish. I have very little to worry about since I can't jack up anything with my BC. I don't know what kind of volume it has but it sure fills slow. I'm planning on having it worked on before the HDR.

The reason; If you jack up a fish with your BC, and then your tip pulls out, you will maybe be in an uncontollable free ascent situation.

The reason the rule was made; At the time, most of the divers only used a backpack with no BC.

For safety reasons, if you're going to jack up a fish with your BC, make sure you are outside of the structure, and use moderation when doing so. Or know your gear. Better yet, learn to use those 2 long things on your feet.
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