Aksel Knut Isaksen, 45, a Norwegian diving instructor who was visiting Malapascua and doing some technical fun dives died Christmas day whilst on a deco stop at Monad Shoal. He died in the arms of his diving buddy, who did everything in his power to save him but to no avail. Isaksen was an experienced and dedicated diver, who believed that knowledge of diving accidents should be shared, so that others may learn from them. As such, and in his spirit, his family have chosen to divulge the little information they have on the disaster to a Norwegian diving magazine. The original article (in Norwegian) may be found here.
It seems that Isaksen, believing to switch to a deco gas of 50% oxygen, in fact mistakenly switched to a deco gas of 100% oxygen. This happened at 16 meters depth, where such a high concentration of oxygen proved toxic. As a result Isaksen convulsed, rejected his regulator and started drowning. His dive buddy tried to force a regulator back into his mouth, but to no avail. Finally his buddy saw no other option but to send Isaksen to the surface, where resuscitation attempts sadly were unsuccessful. It was later discovered that Isakson did not bring any 50% blend with him, but in fact carried two stage cylinders of pure oxygen. His buddy on the other hand had the two tanks with the 50% blend, and no pure oxygen. There is currently no report on how it was possible for them to fatally mistake the cylinders.
Exotic, the dive resort where Isaksen was doing his diving, has posted a statement on their webpage. You can view it here. (02 Feb. 2010 editor’s note - there used to be a link, but Exotic took the statement off their webpage. Broken link removed.)
There is not much one can say about such a tragedy - we’re gripped by shock and sadness and extend our most heartfelt condolences to the family. Our thoughts should also go out to the poor buddy who dived with Isaksen, the people who tried to revive him, the staff of Exotic and to everyone else who has been affected by this sad and meaningless tragedy.
The death of such an experienced diver is a sobering reminder of the inherent dangers of diving. Isaksen’s sad death is perhaps a prudent occasion to consider one’s own predive preparation and attitude to double-checking.
To readers who perhaps are unfamiliar with diving or who are thinking about taking it up, I feel I should mention that Knut Aksel Isaksen was diving way outside of the scope of most recreational divers. He was trusting his training, routine and experience to dive deeper and much longer than most ever will. Sad tragedies like this shouldn’t stop anyone from diving, in the same way that formula one accidents shouldn’t stop anyone from getting into their own car. It’s worlds apart.