I recently had the opportunity to go scuba diving in a sunken ship off the coast of Southern California. My “diving buddy” was an acquaintance of mine who had been diving with me a couple of times before.
The two of us were deep inside the ship when my regulator failed and I began having trouble breathing. I flashed my light and indicated the problem to my partner using hand signals. The proper protocol in such a situation is for both divers to share the working regulator (passing it back and forth between them) and return immediately to the surface. But, as I came toward my partner and reached for his breathing apparatus, he panicked. He told me (later) that he thought I was going to overpower him and take away his breathing gear to save myself, so he fled the ship and left me alone. Without help, I literally had less than a minute to live.
Luckily, I found another diving group nearby inside the ship. I frantically indicated my distress and a woman in that group passed me her regulator. Then the two of us (along with one other diver) returned to the surface safely.
Needless to say, I won’t be diving with my “diving buddy” ever again — he lost his nerve in a crisis situation. The woman who came to my rescue, on the other hand, had no way of knowing if I would calmly follow the rules of safe diving or panic and endanger the whole group, but she had the courage to do the chivalrous thing and help a stranger in distress deep under the ocean.
— Matthew Brown, California
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