Is It Because You Are An Instructor?

“Is it because you are an Instructor that you can go deeper or into wrecks?” That is a typical question I am asked when during an open water course we discuss dive depth limits, those for recreational divers, courses such as Wreck Diver, the dangers associated with them and the planning that is required to safely dive those types of dives or any type of dive.
My response is no, I dive to those depths and into those environments because I have sought the additional training and knowledge to reduce the risk of injury or death from diving in those environments.

I bring this up because very recently a miracle happened in Florida, a beat the odds miracle. A group of three divers, a father along with his college age son and daughter, entered into an overhead environment, the cavern zone of Twin Caves.  As they entered another group of cave divers were preparing to exit and were up as high off the bottom as they could get to avoid silting during their safety stop and had their lights were off to avoid unnecessary battery usage. The daughter lead the group, followed by the father then her brother. Without having proper training they used the typical flutter kicks which was stirring the silt up so much that at that point the divers swam to the gold line before the visibility went to zero. The brother being the last one in, physically ran into the exiting divers and was given the ‘thumbs up’ signal to exit the cave.

Once on the surface one of the divers asked the son if he was an open water diver and asking him what the heck they were doing in a cave. His reply was that it was okay, the other diver, his father, was an instructor. When the boys’ dad surfaced without his sister his demeanor and understanding of the situation was beginning to change.

Luckily these other divers were present and had the sense to call a local cave diver who has hundreds of dives in the system and has unfortunately spent hours removing unqualified divers bodies from caves.
Within a half an hour the qualified recovery diver was onsite and entering the system. In roughly 10 minutes he had located the young woman and was bringing her to the surface, ALIVE. She had found one of the permanent air pockets in the cave and was actually able to get up in it and breathe. She said she was so cold that she just kept kicking to stay warm. She said she had left the air pocket twice to try and find the exit. When the diver found her, he was able to go up and talk to her before escorting her out. I can’t imagine the relief she must have felt when she saw his face pop up in that pocket.

As an instructor and a technical diver I cannot fathom taking a student, let alone one of my own children, into an environment for which they have not been trained or better yet, I have not been trained in.

Please, stay within the limits of your training, you put yourself and those who have to recover you at risk.