I recently volunteered to help the Ontario Underwater Council research and write fatality reports - accurate information about accidents that occur in the Province while people are diving. The reports are meant to give reliable/factual data to the dive community and to make recommendations on how to make the sport safer (based on the facts of the incident).
I had hoped I would go the whole year without having to work on a report. Sadly that is not the case. A 58-year old woman died this week following a Friday April 13th incident in Toronto at Lake Ontario's Humber Bay. What follows is the report that has been posted on the Ontario Underwater Council web site. It is reposted here because I write about diving and have built up a following of visitors looking for scuba information.
|Location of the park. Not accurate as to the location of the incident|
A woman was brought up from the waters of Lake Ontario and police received a 911 call at
1:18 PM on Friday. Judy Swann was standing in her new drysuit with her husband in the
water offshore of Humber Bay Park (just west of the mouth of the Humber River) in Toronto,
when she became unresponsive and fell over into the cold water.
According to televised eyewitness reports, the woman was not showing vital signs when pulled
from the water by Elliott Cristofoli, whom police are describing as a “good Samaritan”. CPR
was administered by Cristofoli and others on land. The Toronto Police Marine Unit informed
the OUC that when EMS arrived, the woman did not have a pulse and CPR and life-saving
Mr. Cristofoli, who has been interviewed by the OUC, also assisted the husband, who was
having trouble breathing and was distressed, to exit the water. Eric’s drysuit was halfway on,
had flooded and he was having difficulty moving in the water.
"From our understanding, she was with her husband and I guess she was trying some new
gear out in the water and she fell into the water and as a result she was submerged into the
water for a period of time...” said official police spokesperson P.C. Tony Vella, shortly after the
accident. The victim was taken to Toronto’s St Joseph’s Health Centre where she passed
away on Sunday April 15th.
The Marine Unit informed the OUC that the victim’s tank had air and that all gear was found to
be in working condition.
“On Friday, April 13th, my mother Judy Swann was involved in an accident at Humber Bay
Park. She had some sort of traumatic attack which all testing indicated to be a heart attack. At
this point, she slipped under the surface and drowned,” wrote her son Graeme on the Ontario
Diving bulletin board.
“Mom was pulled from the water and CPR got her heart started again. She was rushed to St.
Joseph's hospital a very short distance from the scene of the accident,” he continued. “Mom
was in intensive care for 51 hours. A neurologist confirmed our worst fears and pronounced
her brain clinically dead. At approximately 5pm on April 15th my mother, Judy Swann died as
a result of her accident. The level of care and compassion as St. Joseph's was incredible. At
this time, our family is asking for our privacy.”
According to the past president of the Ontario Underwater Council, Raimund Krob, who was
on the water close to the scene when the incident occurred, the “weather was sunny and
winds (& waves) were out of the south-west and mild”. Cristofoli reported that the water
temperature was 6 degrees at the surface.
Although the Federal Government’s Toronto Port Authority controls much of Toronto’s
waterfront and requires permits to dive in those areas of Lake Ontario, the couple was in an
area outside the TPA jurisdiction and no permits were required. Humber Bay Park West is a
popular year-round dive site for Toronto and area divers, and offers easy access shore entries
into Lake Ontario.
This Report Reccomends
Before diving in unfamiliar waters, consult on all critical aspects of the dive and the location
with a diver who is experienced with that site, and if possible, have that diver accompany you.
Buddy teams of divers should gear up together, and enter the water fully-geared up with
regulators in mouths, etc., together.
Dry suit divers in particular should ensure their dry-suits are zipped completely closed before
entering the water.
Divers should try out new equipment in a pool-like-setting before trying it out in open water
(many retailers and clubs book pools for precisely this purpose).
Certain types of scuba equipment (e.g. dry suit) may be easier and safer to use with
appropriate Instruction/Training beforehand. If you have any questions as to whether
Instruction/Training might apply to your scuba equipment acquisition, ask your local scuba
professional (Retailer, Instructor, etc.).
The OUC should look at better and more visible ways of communicating its Ontario Scuba
Diving Incident and Prevention Report.