Diver dies in accident at training centre

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The Independent Online

One man has died and four others were taken to hospital after an accident at a diving centre. The group had been on a training course aimed at improving their deep-water skills.

The dead man is believed to have been struck by decompression sickness, known as the bends, soon after the dive began at the Stoney Cove centre in Leicestershire. Four fellow divers brought him up but also suffered decompression sickness as a result of coming up too quickly.

They were taken to Leicester Royal Infirmary but the man was dead on arrival. The four are being treated but their conditions are not thought to be serious.

Decompression sickness occurs when divers move too quickly from deeper water to shallower levels. During a dive, pressure from the weight of water forces more air into the bloodstream, causing a build-up of nitrogen. Moving to a shallower depth too quickly causes nitrogen bubbles to escape from the blood. A large bubble can cut the oxygen supply to a vital organ, causing paralysis, brain damage or death.

The divers were flown by RAF helicopter to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, which is the nearest hospital equipped with a specialist recompression chamber used to treat victims of the bends.

The 36m-deep Stoney Cove quarry is widely regarded as one of the best inland dive sites in the world. In 2003, the company was fined £7,500 with £40,000 costs after admitting it failed to ensure divers on a recreational course were not exposed to health and safety risks.

That followed the death of trainee diver Paul Gallacher, 33, in October 2000. In May of this year, two divers died at the centre after getting into difficulties.