Diving emergency

Saturday 24 September 2016

Location: Off Porthallow

Weather: S 6-8, Rough Sea and Moderate Swell, Fair Visibility, Overcast

Inshore lifeboat (Launched 12:48 / Returned 13:56) – Diane Bush (Helmsman), Tom Bird, Jamie Connoly

All-weather lifeboat (Launched 12:50 / Returned 13:50) – Luke Wills (2nd Coxswain), Carl Beardmore, Dave Nicoll, Jonathan Hackwell, Adam West, Adrian Hingston


At 12:42 Falmouth Coastguard requested that both Falmouth All Weather and Inshore Lifeboats be launched following reports of a medical emergency on board a dive boat off Porthallow. One diver was in a critical condition and there was uncertainty about the status of other divers who were still in the water. The Lizard Lifeboat, Coastguard Helicopter and Porthoustock Coastguard Rescue Team were also tasked to assist while the Falmouth Coastguard Rescue Team was requested to setup the alternative helicopter landing site at Boscawen Park due to concerns about the visibility at the Treliske Hospital landing site.

The Inshore Lifeboat launched from her slipway at 12:48 followed shortly afterwards by the All Weather Lifeboat which left its pontoon berth at 12:50. Both lifeboats made best speed across Falmouth Bay given the weather conditions. The dive boat reported that it had recovered the remaining divers and was heading to the more sheltered waters off the Helford so The Lizard Lifeboat was released. The Inshore Lifeboat arrived on scene at 13:00 and immediately placed two crew on board the dive boat to assist with treatment of the casualty and to prepare the dive boat for winching. The All Weather Lifeboat arrived on scene at 13:06 and stood by while at 13:09 the helicopter commenced winching, the casualty being in the aircraft by 13:12 and on their way to hospital.

Once the helicopter departed the scene attention turned to the other casualties on the dive boat. Two divers who had assisted the original casualty had made an emergency accent and two others were suffering from shock. The four casualties were transferred to the All Weather Lifeboat and at 13:26 the lifeboat headed back towards Falmouth where paramedics had been requested. During the return journey the Coastguard put the Lifeboat in contact with the doctor at the Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC) in Plymouth who confirmed that they were happy with the treatment being given but requested that the two casualties should be transported to Derriford Hospital for further assessment. The All Weather Lifeboat arrived at its pontoon berth at 13:50 where paramedics assessed the casualties before the two divers who had made the emergency accent were taken by land ambulance to DDRC. Once the Inshore Lifeboat had picked up its crew from the Dive Boat it also headed back to its station arriving at 13:56 where it was then recovered onto its slipway.

Once the casualties had been handed over the lifeboat crew ensured that the medical supplies were replenished and all the equipment was stowed before both lifeboats were made ready for service by 15:45.

Sadly the diver who was airlifted to Treliske Hospital was later confirmed to have passed away and the thoughts of all of the lifeboat crew and station are with his family and friends at this difficult time.