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Instructor charged in death of student he pulled over for safety stop

Listen to this article A diving instructor is accused of causing the death of a student he stopped for a safety stop. A trial is underway in the UK in which a diving instructor is accused of manslaughter for causing the death of a student. During training, on 24 July 2016, instructor Nigel Craig stopped
Published: March 10, 2022 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 23:09
Instructor charged in death of student he pulled over for safety stop
Listen to this article

A diving instructor is accused of causing the death of a student he stopped for a safety stop.
A trial is underway in the UK in which a diving instructor is accused of manslaughter for causing the death of a student. During training, on 24 July 2016, instructor Nigel Craig stopped student Richard Stansfield at a depth of 5m for a 3-minute safety stop. He did this despite the fact that the man had previously reported breathing problems.

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The British press has reported that Nigel Craig, is accused of making the wrong decision to proceed to an irrelevant safety stop. This was done in a situation where the student had difficulty breathing and panicked. Prosecutors say Craig’s behaviour ultimately led to the drowning of 40-year-old Stansfield.

Fatal diving accident

According to the available account, it appears that the defendant, the accused, the victim and a third diver made a dive to a depth of 30m. The dive was carried out as part of a Deep Diver course. After reaching the target depth, the amount of air in the victim’s cylinder was supposed to be significantly lower than required. This was due to various problems faced by Stansfield during the dive including pressure equalization problem.

During the ascent, due to lack of air, at a depth of 18m Stansfield panicked. The other diver handed him his regulator and switched to an automatic from a spare cylinder himself. At a depth of 12m the casualty again signalled breathing problems. At this point the accused instructor intervened and gave the victim his regulator and switched to the spare cylinder himself.

At a depth of 5 metres, the dive plan was to perform a 3-minute safety stop. It was at this stage that the tragedy occurred.

Prosecution point of view

The prosecution demonstrated to the court that the safety stop could be bypassed, in an emergency situation such as lack of air. From the description of the situation, it appears that Stansfield tried to get to the surface by pulling himself up on a drop line attached to a buoy. However, the instructor stopped him and pulled him back to a depth of 5m.

The prosecutor argued that the defendant’s decision to detain Stansfield and prevent him from getting to the surface caused him to lose consciousness and suffer cardiac arrest. The prosecution stressed that Craig had underestimated the seriousness of the situation that had occurred.

Craig grabbed him, stopped him and pulled him back down and indicated that they had to wait until 3 minutes had passed. Over the next few minutes Craig should have noticed that Mr Stansfield was in a serious condition. His eyes were described as dilated, the regulator had slipped from his mouth twice as he was losing consciousness. He was unable to hold it himself. However, despite these obvious signs that he was drowning, Craig waited until three minutes had elapsed. Only then did he pull him to the surface. After surfacing, every effort was made to revive him. Unfortunately, he was unable to regain consciousness prosecutor James House said.

Instructor’s defence

The defendant in turn explained that when Stansfield tried to get to the surface, he only grabbed him for a moment and signalled a 3 minute safety stop. He also stated that he did not hold him and if the man had wanted to escape to the surface he would not have been able to stop him.

The prosecutor before the jury said that the defendant’s decision may have stemmed from a ‘fundamental misunderstanding’ about the need for a safety stop, which was not necessary, and an underestimation of the seriousness of the situation when ‘symptoms were apparent’. He also stressed that no one is suggesting for a moment that Nigel Craig wanted any of this to happen, quite the opposite.

At this point, the court has not yet delivered a verdict and the trial is continuing.

Photo reference unrelated to the situation presented

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About author

Marcin Pawełczyk
Marcin’s journey with diving has been an adventure. Starting as a recreational diver, he soon found himself drawn to the fascinating stories and mysteries of Baltic wrecks. After gaining experience, Marcin decided to go beyond just leisurely exploration and took his training up a notch by completing the TMX course, allowing him to explore even deeper and uncover the secrets of inaccessible places. His next challenge has been cave diving, where he is honing his skills to become a certified diver. Not content to simply take in the breathtaking beauty of underwater life, Marcin has also embraced underwater photography since 2018, capturing stunning shots that bring these worlds alive for those who are unable to experience them first-hand. Marcin’s passion for the underwater has taken him far and is sure to continue doing so as he dives into new depths and captures breathtaking images.
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