Category Archives: Doom

DOOM: The Gimli Glider

This is from — the best piece on this story.

The Gimli Glider

by Wade H. Nelson

Copyright WHN 1997 All Rights Reserved

Published in Soaring Magazine

2800 Words including sidebars

Question: If a Boeing 767 runs out of fuel at 41,000 feet what do you have? Answer: A 132 ton glider with a sink rate of over 2000 feet-per-minute and marginally enough hydraulic pressure to control the ailerons, elevator, and rudder. Put veteran pilots Bob Pearson and cool-as-a-cucumber Maurice Quintal in the cockpit and you’ve got the unbelievable but true story of Air Canada Flight 143, known ever since as the Gimli Glider.

Flight 143’s problems began on the ground in Montreal. A computer known as the Fuel Quantity Information System Processor manages the entire 767 fuel loading process. The FQIS controls the fuel pumps and drives all of the 767’s fuel gauges. Little is left for crew and refuelers to do but hook up the hoses and dial in the desired fuel load. But the FQIS was not working properly on Flight 143. The fault was later discovered to be a poorly soldered sensor. An improbable sequence of circuit-breaking mistakes made by an Air Canada technician independently investigating the problem defeated several layers of redundancy built into the system. This left Aircraft #604 without working fuel gauges.

In order to make their flight from Montreal to Ottawa and on to Edmonton, Flight 143’s maintenance crew resorted to calculating the 767’s fuel load by hand. This was done using a procedure known as dipping, or “dripping” the tanks. “Dripping” could be compared to calculating the amount of oil in a car based on taking a dipstick reading.

Among other things, the specific gravity of jet fuel is needed to make the proper “drip” calculations.

The flight crew had never been trained how to perform the calculations. To be safe they re-ran the numbers three times to be absolutely, positively sure the refuelers hadn’t made any mistakes; each time using 1.77 pounds/liter as the specific gravity factor. This was the factor written on the refueler’s slip and used on all of the other planes in Air Canada’s fleet. The factor the refuelers and the crew should have used on the brand new, all-metric 767 was .8 kg/liter of kerosene.

After a brief hop Flight 143 landed in Ottawa. To be completely safe, Pearson insisted on having the 767 re-dripped. The refuelers reporting the plane as having 11,430 liters of fuel contained in the two wing tanks. Pearson and Quintal, again using the same incorrect factor used in Montreal, calculated they had 20,400 kilos of fuel on board. In fact, they left for Ottawa with only 9144 kilos, roughly half what would be needed to reach Edmonton.

Lacking real fuel gauges Quintal and Pearson manually keyed 20,400 into the 767’s flight management computer. The flight management computer kept rough track of the amount of fuel remaining by subtracting the amount of fuel burned from the amount (they believed) they had started with. Their fate was now sealed.

According to Pearson, the crew and passengers had just finished dinner when the first warning light came on. Flight 143 was outbound over Red Lake Ontario at 41,000 feet and 469 knots at the time. The 767’s Engine Indicator and Crew Alerting System beeped four times in quick succession, alerting them to a fuel pressure problem. “At that point” Pearson says “We believed we had a failed fuel pump in the left wing, and switched it off. We also considered the possibility we were having some kind of a computer problem. Our flight management computer showed more than adequate fuel remaining for the duration of the flight. We’d made fuel checks at two waypoints and had no other indications of a fuel shortage.” When a second fuel pressure warning light came on, Pearson felt it was too much of a coincidence and made a decision to divert to Winnipeg. Flight 143 requested an emergency clearance and began a gradual descent to 28,000. Says Pearson, “Circumstances then began to build fairly rapidly.” The other left wing pressure gauge lit up, and the 767’s left engine quickly flamed out. The crew tried crossfeeding the tanks, initially suspecting a pump failure.

Pearson and Quintal immediately began making preparations for a one engine landing. Then another fuel light lit up. Two minutes later, just as preparations were being completed, the EICAS issued a sharp bong–indicating the complete and total loss of both engines. Says Quintal “It’s a sound that Bob and I had never heard before. It’s not in the simulator.” After the “bong,” things got quiet. Real quite. Starved of fuel, both Pratt & Whitney engines had flamed out.

At 1:21 GMT, the forty million dollar, state-of-the-art Boeing 767 had become a glider. The APU, designed to supply electrical and pneumatic power under emergency conditions, was no help because it drank from the same fuel tanks as the main engines. Approaching 28,000 feet the 767’s glass cockpit went dark. Pilot Bob Pearson was left with a radio and standby instruments, noticeably lacking a vertical speed indicator – the glider pilot’s instrument of choice. Hydraulic pressure was falling fast and the plane’s controls were quickly becoming inoperative. But the engineers at Boeing had foreseen even this most unlikely of scenarios and provided one last failsafe&emdash;the RAT.

The RAT is the Ram Air Turbine, a propeller driven hydraulic pump tucked under the belly of the 767. The RAT can supply just enough hydraulic pressure to move the control surfaces and enable a dead-stick landing. The loss of both engines caused the RAT to automatically drop into the airstream and begin supplying hydraulic pressure.

As Pearson began gliding the big bird, Quintal “got busy” in the manuals looking for procedures for dealing with the loss of both engines. There were none.. Neither he nor Pearson nor any other 767 pilot had ever been trained on this contingency. Pearson reports he was thinking “I wonder how it’s all going to turn out.” Controllers in Winnipeg began suggesting alternate landing spots, but none of the airports suggested, including Gimli, had the emergency equipment Flight 143 would need for a crash landing. The 767’s radar transponder had gone dark leaving controllers in Winnipeg using a cardboard ruler on the radar screen to try and determine the 767’s location and rate of descent.

Pearson glided the 767 at 220 knots, his best guess as to the optimum airspeed. There was nothing in the manual about minimum sink – Boeing never expected anyone to try and glide one of their jumbo jets. The windmilling engine fans created enormous drag, giving the 767 a sink rate of somewhere between 2000 and 2500 fpm. Copilot Quintal began making glide-slope calculations to see if they’d make Winnipeg. The 767 had lost 5000 feet of altitude over the prior ten nautical (11 statute) miles, giving a glide ratio of approximately 11:1. ATC controllers and Quintal both calculated that Winnipeg was going to be too far a glide;the 767 was sinking too fast. “We’re not going to make Winnipeg” he told Pearson. Pearson trusted Quintal absolutely at this critical moment, and immediately turned north.

Only Gimli, the site of an abandoned Royal Canadian Air Force Base remained as a possible landing spot. It was 12 miles away. It wasn’t in Air Canada’s equivalent of Jeppensen manuals,but Quintal was familiar with it because he’d been stationed there in the service. Unknown to him and the controllers in Winnipeg, Runway 32L (left) of Gimli’s twin 6800 foot runways had become inactive and was now used for auto racing. A steel guard rail had been installed down most of the southeastern portion of 32L, dividing it into a two lane dragstrip. This was the runway Pearson would ultimately try and land on, courting tragedy of epic proportions.

To say that runway 32L was being used for auto racing is perhaps an understatement. Gimli’s inactive runway had been “carved up” into a variety of racing courses, including the aforementioned dragstrip. Drag races were perhaps the only auto racing event not taking place on July 23rd, 1983 since this was “Family Day” for the Winnipeg Sports Car Club. Go-cart races were being held on one portion of runway 32L and just past the dragstrip another portion of the runway served as the final straightaway for a road course. Around the edges of the straightaway were cars, campers, kids, and families in abundance. To land an airplane in the midst of all of this activity was certain disaster.

Pearson and Copilot Quintal turned toward Gimli and continued their steep glide. Flight 143 disappeared below Winnipeg’s radar screens, the controllers frantically radioing for information about the number of “souls” on board. Approaching Gimli Pearson and Quintal made their next unpleasant discovery: The RAT didn’t supply hydraulic pressure to the 767’s landing gear. Pearson ordered a “gravity drop” as Pearson thumbed frantically through the Quick Reference Handbook, or QRH. Quintal soon tossed the QRH aside and hit the button to release the gear door pins. They heard the main gear fall and lock in place. But Quintal only got two green lights, not three. The nose gear hadn’t gone over center and locked, despite the “assist” it was given by the wind.

Six miles out Pearson began his final approach onto what was formerly RCAFB Gimli. Pearson says his attention was totally concentrated on the airspeed indicator from this point on. Approaching runway 32L he realized he was too high and too fast, and slowed to 180 knots. Lacking divebrakes, he did what any sailplane pilot would do: He crossed the controls and threw the 767 into a vicious sideslip. Slips are normally avoided on commercial flights because of the the tremendous buffeting it creates, unnerving passengers. As he put the plane into a slip some of Flight 143’s passengers ended up looking at nothing but blue sky, the others straight down at a golf course. Says Quintal, “It was an odd feeling. The left wing was down, so I was up compared to Bob. I sort of looked down at him, not sideways anymore.”

The only problem was that the slip further slowed the RAT, costing Pearson precious hydraulic pressure. Would he be able to wrestle the 767’s dipped wing up before the plane struck the ground? Trees and golfers were visible out the starboard side passengers’ windows as the 767 hurtled toward the threshold at 180 knots, 30-50 knots faster than normal. The RAT didn’t supply “juice” to the 767’s flaps or slats so the landing was going to be hot. Pearson didn’t recover from the slip until the very last moment. A passenger reportedly said “Christ, I can almost see what clubs they are using.” Copilot Quintal suspected Pearson hadn’t seen the guardrail and the multitude of people and cars down the runway. But at this point it was too late to say anything. A glider only gets one chance at a landing,and they were committed. Quintal bit his lip and remained silent.

Why did Pearson select 32L instead of 32R? Gimli was uncontrolled so Pearson had to rely on visual cues. It was approaching dusk. Runway 32L was a bit wider, having been the primary runway at Gimli in prior year. Light stantions still led up to 32L. And the “X” painted on 32L, indicating its inactive status, was reportedly quite faded or non-existent. Having made an initial decision to go for 32L the wide separation of the runways would have made it impossible for Pearson to divert to 32R at the last moment. Pearson says he, “Never even saw 32R, focusing instead on airspeed, attitude, and his plane’s relationship to the threshold of 32L.”

The 767 silently leveled off and the main gear touched down as spectators, racers, and kids on bicycles fled the runway. The gigantic Boeing was about to become a 132 ton, silver bulldozer. One member of the Winnipeg Sports Car Club reported he was walking down the dragstrip, five gallon can full of hi-octane racing fuel in hand, when he looked up and saw the 767 headed right for him. Pearson stood on the brakes the instant the main gear touched down. An explosion rocked the 767’s cabin as two tires blew. The nose gear, which hadn’t locked down, collapsed with a bang.. The nose of the 767 slammed against the tarmac, bounced, then began throwing a three hundred foot shower of sparks. The right engine nacelle struck the ground. The 767 reached the tail end of the dragstrip and the nose grazed a few of the guardrail’s wooden support poles. (The dragstrip began in the middle of the runway with the guardrail extending towards 32L’s threshold) Pearson applied extra right brake so the main gear would straddle the guardrail. Would the sports car fans be able to get out of the way, or would Pearson have to veer the big jet off the runway to avoid hitting stragglers?

The 767 came to a stop on its nose, mains, and right engine nacelle less than a hundred feet from spectators, barbecues and campers. All of the race fans had managed to flee the path of the silver bulldozer. The 767’s fuselage was intact. For an instant, there was silence in the cabin. Then cheers and applause broke out. They’d made it; everyone was alive. But it wasn’t over yet. A small fire had broken out in the nose of the aircraft. Oily black smoke began to pour into the cockpit. The fiery deaths of passengers in an Air Canada DC-9 that had made an emergency landing in Cincinnati a month before was on the flight attendants’ minds and an emergency evacuation was ordered. The unusual nose-down angle the plane was resting at made the rear emergency slides nearly vertical. Descending them was treacherous.

The only injuries that resulted from Pearson’s dead-stick landing of Flight 143 came from passengers exiting the rear emergency slide slamming into the asphalt. None of the injuries were life-threatening. The fire in the aircraft’s nose area was battled by members of the Winnipeg Sports Car Club who converged on the plane with dozens of hand-held fire extinguishers. Pearson had touched down 800 feet from the threshold and used a mere 3000 feet of runway to stop. A general aviation pilot who viewed the landing from a Cessna on the apron of 32R described it as “Impeccable.” The 767 was relatively undamaged.

Air Canada Aircraft #604 was repaired sufficiently to be flown out of Gimli two days later. After approximately $1M in repairs, consisting primarily of nose gear replacement, skin repairs and replacement of a wiring harness it re-entered the Air Canada fleet. To this day Aircraft #604 is known to insiders as “The Gimli Glider.” The avoidance of disaster was credited to Capt. Pearson’s “Knowledge of gliding which he applied in an emergency situation to the landing of one of the most sophisticated aircraft ever built.” Captain Pearson strongly credits Quintal for his cockpit management of “Everything but the actual flight controls,” including his recommendation of Gimli as an landing spot. Captains Pearson and Quintal spoke at the 1991 SSA Convention in Albuquerque about their experiences. Pearson was, at the time, still employed and flying for Air Canada, and occasionally flying his Blanik L-13 sailplane on the weekends; he has since retired to raise horses. Maurice Quintal is now an A-320 Pilot for Air Canada, and will soon be captaining 767’s; including Aircraft #604. Copyright 1997 WHN

An amusing side-note to the Gimli story is that after Flight 143 had landed safely, a group of Air Canada mechanics were dispatched to drive down and begin effecting repair. They piled into a van with all their tools. They reportedly ran out of fuel en-route, finding themselves stranded somewhere in the backwoods of Manitoba


Special thanks to William and Marilyn Mona Hoffer, authors of “Freefall, A True Story” ISBN 0-312-92274-4

Boeing Aircraft 767 Chief Engineer Hank Queen

Mr. Len Gelfand, Colin Nisbet, Don Sigmundson, Don Kawal, Robert Pearson, Maurice Quintal, and many others.

Photo /Illustration Credits:

Sports Cars / 767 on Nose Wayne Glowacki

Gimli from the air Anders Kuusselka

Flight Profile Wade Nelson

Flight Path Wade Nelson

767 “Glass Cockpit” Maurice Quintal

767+slides_generator MQ

767 slide / skid marks MQ

767 two people MQ

767 straddling rail MQ

Quote: Pilot Bob Pearson

For me it was a cold, unemotional experience. It was the only time in my entire career I felt like I was a computer. I had a job to do and I stayed totally focused.

Quote: Jeff Morris, Training Captain with Hunting Cargo Airlines, Ireland

I’ve found that glider pilots make better jet drivers. The guys who do the best deadstick landings in the simulator are all glider pilots. It definitely gives you an edge in managing the flight.

The “Amazing Coincidences” of Gimli:

Pilot had extensive glider experience, co-owned a Blanik L-13 sailplane

Co-Pilot had once been stationed at Gimli, was familiar with it.

Wpeg ATC had old style radar which allowed them to track the 767 once the transponder stopped working

Sports car club had fire extinguishers galore, Jaws of Life

ER Physician Colin Nesbit was in a Cessna performing a preflight at end of 32R

Air Canada mechanics driving a van to Gimli to begin repairs of #604 ran out of gas in the backroads of Manitoba.

One of the few people in Manitoba who owned a videocamera (rare in those days) was at Gimli that day. In a classic case of being in the right place at the wrong time, he left the airfield approximately 30 minutes before it landed because he needed to run into town to get some parts for his go-kart.

Author Bio:

Wade H. Nelson is a freelance writer living in Durango Colorado, which he calls “The last of the great ski towns.” He is available for aviation writing assignments and may be reached at wade727 (at) wadenelson. com


DOOM: Hawaiian Disaster

I remember reading about this story but this is the only trace of it I could find on the web, a comment on a more recent story about a Florida dive company who neglected to pick up a diver.

As in the other Doom posts, imagine the point at which the realization set in that …this was it. This was the end of the line.

“There was a longtime guy on Oahu who left a certified Japanese tourist underwater off Waikiki even with her sister telling the crew that she was still in the water. The company, Atlantis Reef Divers, paid a pretty nice chunk of money to the family in Japan and this was the death knell for the Atlantis Submarine dive operations, although nothing happened until the case was settled. He trusted his DM’s to tell him that all were back onboard, something I never did.
The captain’s license was suspended for six months. Plus he pretty much became unemployable for any reputable outfit in Hawaii. It worked like that for dive staff who killed a customer. The person was kept on the company payroll going their regular job for as long as it took to settle the case – in this case, almost two years. Approximately ten seconds after the final signature, the person was fired and out the door. And he was surprised!
All the years that I drove dive boats, we didn’t leave the mooring until I was personally happy that everyone was back onboard. No reading a roll call – I physically counted every paying SOB (hey, that’s Soul On Board) and making sure every tank was back in its spot. The DM’s cooperated since they didn’t want an irate captain in their face after the dive.
And I drove some packed cattleboats.”

Here’s some more information:

” Dive boat captain accused of negligence
The Coast Guard said his actions resulted in the drowning of a diver
By Jim Witty

THE U.S. Coast Guard has charged a Waikiki dive boat captain with negligence in the Aug. 14 drowning of a novice scuba diver.

Captain Robert Thomas Yoho Jr. failed to ensure that all passengers were on board his Atlantis Reef Divers vessel before leaving a dive site off Fort DeRussy beach, said Capt. Frank Whipple, commander of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office.

Yoho, who has held an ocean operator’s license since 1983, is to appear before an administrative judge Jan. 13. The judge can suspend or revoke his license, place him on probation or dismiss the case. Whipple stressed the negligence charge is not a criminal or civil action.

“He’s required by the regulations to account for people when they get on the boat and when they leave the boat,” Whipple said. “He went out with X number of people; he came back with X minus one. I don’t need much evidence to show that.”

Akemi Hoshino, 24, of Saitama, Japan, drowned after participating in an introductory scuba dive session about 200 yards off shore.

Police said she was dropped off in the ocean about 9:40 a.m. and was discovered missing after the boat returned to the pier about an hour later. A diver from another commercial company pulled Hoshino’s body to the surface.

Atlantis spokesman Terry O’Halloran has said the two instructors assigned to the eight novice divers accounted for all the divers before heading back in.

Neither O’Halloran or Whipple would comment on the continuing Coast Guard investigation.

Whipple said the investigation could take months to complete. The Coast Guard is waiting to interview witnesses, some of whom have returned to Japan, and for a determination from the coroner’s office, Whipple said.

Meanwhile, Atlantis Reef Divers has suspended its scuba diving operation indefinitely, O’Halloran said.

Whipple said the Hawaii Coast Guard initiated 25 negligence, misconduct or law violation cases last year.

“(But) this is a high profile case,” he said. “It affects the economic climate in Hawaii.”

But Hawaii Visitors Bureau spokesman David McNeil claimed that the deaths of Hoshino and the drowning of 54-year-old Tomoko Yanase while on an Atlantis Reef Divers expedition off Waikiki last April were isolated incidents.

“We don’t anticipate it to affect visitor numbers,” O’Neil said. “The circumstances surrounding (the) tragic incident remain unclear. However, it does provide the impetus to review the safety procedures of the dive industry.”

O’Halloran said the company is focusing on “prevention” and will concentrate on “examining how water recreation safety can be improved.”

Whipple said the Marine Safety Office employs a staff of 60 whose job is to “prevent casualties.”

O’Halloran said his company is cooperating fully with the Coast Guard.

“Any information we get, they have,” he said. “We want answers too.””

And more:

“Hawaii’s Dangerous Dives
Tourist’s death raises safety concerns
from the May, 1997 issue of Undercurrent  
The April issue of Conde Nast Traveler contained an important piece on Hawaii diving by writer Alex Salkever. We are reprinting it here with their permission.
Scuba Diving Operations in Hawaii are scurrying to repair their reputations, which were damaged by the death last August of a novice diver who was inexplicably left behind by her dive boat.
Fatalities are rare, but this case has the Coast Guard and local dive operators calling for changes in the way divers, especially novices, are supervised. It has also underscored that the dive industry is largely self-regulating.
Diving regulations are, for the most part, self-enforced; certification agencies such as PADI and NAUI have no police arm. The Coast Guard has no jurisdiction over dive shops or boats. And in an industry notorious for low profit margins and salaries, instructors and boat captains are often afraid of blowing the whistle on hazardous operators. “It could cost someone his job,” one instructor told us, “and Hawaii is a very small place.”
The number of recreational diving fatalities in Hawaii is small — there were 11 last year — considering the thousands of dives that take place in the state annually. But it can be difficult for a visitor to determine how safe a particular operator is since there are no statistics on near misses or minor injuries, and a company with a poor record can easily change names and reopen.
Akemi Hoshino apparently picked the wrong operator. On August 14, 1996, Hoshino, a Japanese tourist, drowned in the waters off Waikiki after her dive boat returned to shore without her. According to Atlantis Reef Divers, the company operating the tour, all divers were believed accounted for, but somehow Hoshino did not return to the boat.
Officials with Atlantis, which has ceased operations, claim that their instructors were experienced and that every precaution was taken. They could not explain, however, why Hoshino was left behind.
A Coast Guard report placed considerable blame on the company and cited “lack of care of dive instructors [and] vessel crew” as the apparent cause. It also noted that the tight timetable of Atlantis’s dive expeditions pressured the crew to return to shore as quickly as possible. In the report, the captain of the dive boat, Robert Thomas Yoho, Jr., described the schedule as “fast and furious.” On the day of the accident, the boat was almost 30 minutes behind.
Such time pressures, however, are not unusual on what dive instructors call “cattleboats,” large operations like Atlantis that, they say, emphasize numbers over safety.
Hoshino’s group was on a “Discovery Scuba Dive,” a PADIdesigned program for people with little or no experience. Participants are given brief instructions on dive procedures and safety, then take a first dive, usually in shallow waters, in the company of a dive instructor. Most dive associations sponsor “resort programs” because they are often marketed to vacationers with limited time.
According to the Coast Guard, however, such brief training carries inherent dangers. Instructors are unable to fully determine a diver’s swimming ability, physical condition, and mental soundness. Moreover, cultural and language barriers can be a problem, as Hoshino’s death tragically proved.
According to the report, one of the Atlantis instructors professed to speak Japanese, but Japanese patrons on the tour had difficulty communicating with him. Hoshino’s sister, who was also on the boat, tried to tell the crew that her sister was missing as they returned to shore, but she was unable to make herself understood.
In the wake of the accident, Hawaii dive instructors have expressed unease with PADI’s maximum of six introductory divers per instructor, saying they would prefer a ratio of two to one. Lieutenant Scott Stewart, the Coast Guard’s chief investigating officer on the case, said an instructor told him, “I don’t want any more divers than I have hands.”
PADI defends its program, pointing out that this has been its only fatality since it was introduced in 1992. Over 65,000 divers have taken the course. The Coast Guard has charged Yoho with negligence and asked PADI to stringently review the case and take appropriate action against instructors and crew. In addition, it has asked the Ocean Recreation Council of Hawaii, a local industry group, to review issues of dive safety in Hawaii. Says Stewart, “If an operation is run like [Atlantis was], there is a definite potential that similar accidents will occur.”
Courtesy of Condé Traveler. Copyright © 1997 by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.”

And more:


A charge of negligence has been levied against the captain of a Atlantis tour
boat, after a Japanese tourist lost her life during a routine beginners’ dive
off Waikiki. Coast Guard officials say Atlantis boat captain Robert Yoho Jr.
failed to notice that one of his passengers was missing. “It’s relatively
clear,” said Coast Guard spokesman Frank Whipple. “X number of people went
out on the boat, X minus one number of people came back on the boat.”
Although the head-count error might have been made by the instructors on the
dive, Whipple said, it was Yoho’s responsibility to verify them. One week
ago, divers from another tour company pulled an unconscious 24-year-old Akemi
Hoshino from about 30 feet of water. Lifeguards were unsuccessful in attempts
to resuscitate her, later discovering that she had been underwater for over
an hour before being brought to shore. A hearing is scheduled for January,
and Yoho may be stripped of his captain’s license and face the end of his 13-
year career. “I find this to be a very difficult decision to make, because
it’s an accident,” Whipple said, adding that the Coast Guard’s authority in
the case stops at examining Yoho’s involvement. Although it is unclear
whether Atlantis will face inquiries by other authorities, the incident has
prompted the company to shut its doors indefinitely. Company spokesman Terry
O’Halloran said Atlantis’ 12 employees now find their jobs in limbo. “They’re
all just waiting like we all are,” O’Halloran said. The company has expressed
its regrets to Hoshino’s family. State investigators, meanwhile, have not yet
determined the exact reason behind Hoshino’s drowning, whether it was due to
an injury, a case of the bends or getting caught on some rocks.”

And more:

“ATLANTIS Reef Divers announced today that it is shutting its doors
permanently. The dive company’s tour operation has been suspended since Aug.
14 when a Japanese tourist died while on one of its introductory dives.
Investigators say it took Atlantis staff nearly an hour to realize that 24-
year-old Akemi Hoshino was missing. She was pulled from waters off the Hilton
Hawaiian Village an hour later. Atlantis Spokesman Terry O’Halloran said
Hoshino’s death wasn’t the only reason behind the closure, saying dive tours
no longer fit the company’s overall plan. Tour employees are going to be
given positions elsewhere within the company, O’Halloran added…”

DOOM: Forgotten by their dive boat

As with the story of the European Canyoneers, there must have been a point when this couple realized that their number was up — because somebody couldn’t count or couldn’t be bothered to count noses on their dive boat.

Outside Magazine October 2003
A Watery Grave

Eileen and Tom Lonergan went out for a day of scuba diving, and never came back – The story behind the movie Open Water.
By: Jason Daley

IT’S A DIVERS WORST NIGHTMARE: Miles from shore, you surface to find your charter boat nowhere in sight. You call for help, but there’s no response. There are no outcroppings to hold on to. You hope that someone realizes their mistake before it’s too late.

This is what presumably happened to Eileen and Tom Lonergan on January 25, 1998, at St. Crispin’s Reef, a popular dive site on the Great Barrier Reef, 25 miles off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The Lonergans, diving veterans from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had gone out with the Port Douglas, Queensland-based scuba boat Outer Edge. Stories vary, but at the end of the day, the crew did a head count and came up with only 24 of their 26 clients. Someone pointed out two young divers who had jumped in to swim off the bow, and the crew, assuming that they had missed them, adjusted the count to 26. With the swimmers on board, the Outer Edge headed back to port.

Two days later, Geoffrey Nairn, the boat’s skipper, discovered Eileen and Tom’s personal belongings in the Outer Edge’s lost-property bin, including Tom’s wallet, glasses, and clothes. Concerned, he called the owner of the Gone Walkabout Hostel, in Cairns, where the couple had been staying, to see if they had returned. They had not. A five-day search began, which turned up no trace of Eileen or Tom. After more than 48 hours in the ocean, the couple may have drowned, or been eaten by sharks. But as the chilling story broke, other theories emerged. One is that they committed suicide, or a murder-suicide took place. Journals in their hotel room hinted at personal troubles, but the couple were devout Catholics with good prospects. Tom, 33, and Eileen, 28, had just come off a three-year tour of duty with the Peace Corps in Tuvalu and Fiji and were en route to Hawaii, where they hoped to settle down.

Another scenario has the Lonergans using the dive boat as part of an elaborate hoax to fake their deaths. Jeanette Brenthall, owner of a bookshop in Port Douglas, believes the couple came into her store on January 27, two days after their dive trip. The pair was also reportedly sighted in a hotel in downtown Darwin. Reports of a boat less than a mile from St. Crispin’s Reef seem to support theories that the couple was picked up. But the Lonergans’ bank accounts were never touched, and no one ever collected on their insurance policies. A few weeks after they’d gone missing, some of their personal dive gear washed up on a beach 75 miles from the dive site. Six months later, a weathered dive slate—a device used to communicate underwater—with contact information for Eileen’s father and the words PLEASE HELP US OR WE WILL DIE. JANUARY 26, 8:00 A.M., was found floating in the same vicinity as the gear.

In November 1999, Geoffrey Nairn was tried on manslaughter charges and acquitted; he believes the jury felt he shouldn’t be blamed for a mistake made by the entire crew. His company, Outer Edge Dive, was tried by a civil court in Queensland, pled guilty to negligence, and was fined. Nairn, who closed down Outer Edge Dive shortly thereafter, believes that the Lonergans died on the reef. “It was a tragedy, and I’ll never get over it,” he told Outside. “The highest probability is that Tom and Eileen are dead.”

Back in Baton Rouge, Eileen’s father, John Hains, also believes that the couple drowned after being accidentally left behind. “The Australian dive industry wanted to prove that Tom and Eileen faked their deaths,” he says of the disappearance theories. “But the survival rate of being in the ocean with no place to go is nil.”

DOOM: 1999 European Canyoning Disaster

There must have been a point when the Canyoneers realized the waters were rising and that there was no escape.

Wednesday, July 28, 1999
River disaster kills at least 18

At least 18 people have been killed in a canyoning accident in central Switzerland.

Another six are injured and at least three people are still missing, feared dead.

Earlier reports that another body had been found in the water turned out to be false.

A local police spokesman said the victims came from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada, the United States, South Africa and Switzerland.

The police said it would take “days or weeks” until all the victims were identified.

Most of the fatalities suffered injuries to the head and the canyonists were all wearing identical protective gear – so dental records will have to be used for identification.

Dangerous sport

Canyoning is an adventure sport which involves climbing down gorges, and body surfing down mountain rapids and waterfalls without a raft.

The victims had apparently been swept down from a nearby canyon, possibly in flash floods following a sudden thunderstorm.

“I saw huge pieces of wood in the water,” said Andreas Haesler. “Then I saw bodies – one on its stomach, one on its back. They were all wearing life jackets but it was clear they were dead.”

Helicopters and teams of rescuers are on site and an investigating judge has been called to the scene.

The mother of one of the six injured people told how her son had tumbled down about six waterfalls after being hit by what he described as “a massive wall of water”.

New Zealander John Hall, who is in hospital with back injuries, told his mother Ann that a lot of his friends had been killed, but that staff were shielding him from the extent of the tragedy.

Thunder and lightning

The expedition had been organised by Adventure World, a Swiss company based in nearby Wilderswil, which is popular with Americans and Japanese.

“It’s awful,” said Georg Hoedle, one of the company’s managers, as he choked back tears at a news conference.

“We’ve been organising canyoning for six years and until now have only had the occasional broken leg.”

Examining Magistrate Martin Trapp: The accident could have been caused by a thunder storm
Reports say a sudden storm swelled the Saxeten brook into a raging torrent, uprooting trees.

The stream flows into a river which in turn empties into Lake Brienz around 60 kilometres (37 miles) southeast of the Swiss capital, Bern.

Examining Magistrate Martin Trapp, who is investigating the accident, told the BBC there had been thunder and lightning in the afternoon and he would be looking at whether the storm could have caused the deaths.

The authorities have set up a special phone line for worried relatives on (41-31) 634-20-51.

Australian disaster

Canyoning is considered dangerous even in the best weather conditions.

The tragedy comes just months after a British teenager was killed canyoning in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia.

Siobhan Halls, 17, who had not been wearing a safety helmet, died when her body was dragged under water. Her body was found wedged beneath rocks.

Doom: Engineer wins $1.68 million in scuba diving case

Engineer wins $1.68 million in scuba diving case

Daniel Carlock, who was abandoned in the ocean on a 2004 dive trip, is awarded damages in his five-year legal battle against Venice-based Ocean Adventures Dive Co. and Long Beach-based Sundiver Charters.

October 24, 2010|By Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times

Daniel Carlock, a Santa Monica aerospace engineer, prayed to God not to let him die after he was abandoned floating in the ocean 12 miles off Long Beach by leaders of a scuba diving excursion. After nearly five hours, surrounded by thick fog, “I had this feeling my spirit was getting ready to vacate my body,” he recalled.

On Friday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury awarded Carlock $1.68 million in damages in his five-year legal battle against Venice-based Ocean Adventures Dive Co. and Long Beach-based Sundiver Charters.

The jury heard testimony that Carlock, who was 45 at the time of the 2004 incident, had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and developed skin cancer from exposure.

“It has been an ordeal,” he said as he celebrated at a Newport Beach restaurant with his wife, Anne. “But I wanted to seek changes in the scuba industry. Others will benefit.”

The Sundiver, carrying 20 scuba divers, was staging a dive near the oil rig Eureka when Carlock surfaced 400 feet from the vessel after having trouble equalizing the pressure in his ears.

He said he tried to swim back to the boat but got cramps in his legs. He blew on his safety whistle and waved a yellow inflatable diving sausage, but the others on the vessel did not see him and no one noticed he was gone.

Despite his absence, a dive master for Ocean Adventures marked him on the dive roster as present on the boat.

Then, to escape strong currents, the boat moved to a second dive site seven miles away. Once the vessel was there, Carlock was again marked on the roster as having taken a second dive — although by then he was bobbing alone in the ocean miles away.

It wasn’t until more than three hours after Carlock had been left behind at the first site that the crew realized he was missing and the Sundiver’s captain radioed the Coast Guard. Rescue workers rushed to the second dive site.

Meanwhile, south of the first dive site, Carlock was drifting in strong currents toward Newport Beach with “the feeling that I was going to die.”

The Coast Guard never did find Carlock. He was rescued seven miles off Newport Beach by the Argus, a tall ship carrying a group of Boy Scouts. The ship had changed course to avoid colliding with a freighter; otherwise it would not have been in sight of Carlock.

He was spotted by a 15-year-old Scout who happened to be looking through binoculars. At first, the Scout thought he was seeing a piece of trash in the distance.

After a 23-day trial and 21/2 days of deliberations, the jury assessed total damages in the negligence suit at $2 million. But it reduced Carlock’s award on the grounds that he was partly responsible because he had been told to surface closer to the boat.

“Dan has changed the industry’s safety standards so that other divers won’t be left out in the ocean and endure this kind of terror,” said Carlock’s attorney, Scott Koepke.

He said industry standards had previously been “amorphous” on how to count divers. “Now they have to have visual verification and redundancy. And the dive boat captains, not just the dive masters, are responsible for the count.”

A man answering the telephone at Ocean Adventures said owner Stephen Ladd was unreachable because he was diving off Thailand. Sundiver Charters did not respond to messages.

Lawyers for the companies had contended that by participating in the dive, Carlock had assumed certain risks, thereby waiving his right to hold operators responsible. But a judge refused to dismiss the case, saying that being abandoned at sea is not a risk inherent in the sport.

Stephen Hewitt, an attorney for Ocean Adventures, acknowledged that “everyone involved had some obligation to look for and account for Mr. Carlock.”

However, he added, he had hoped the jury would find Carlock 50% responsible for the incident. “We have a buddy rule. If you can’t find your buddy, you are supposed to surface, but he continued to dive for 15 minutes by himself,” Hewitt said. In the trial, he said, “there was a dispute” as to the identity of Carlock’s buddy, with one of the dive masters denying it was he.

“We question the amount of effort Mr. Carlock made to swim back to the boat,” he said. “He chose to let the current take him away.”

Hewitt disagreed with the jury’s decision to include future pain and suffering as part of the $1.68-million award. “He is married. He has a life and seems to be OK.” .

Carlock’s ordeal attracted international attention at the time. He appeared on NBC’s “Today” show and on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” among others.