Dorset coast scuba diving accidents are highest in country

The Dorset coastline saw more scuba diving accidents than anywhere else in the country, it has emerged.

Portland Coastguard dealt with 41 separate diving incidents in 2010, three times the national average. The incidents included three deaths.

The coastguard said the Dorset coastline is one of the most popular diving locations in UK waters.

Inadequate training, such as people not learning to dive in unclear waters, was also highlighted by the coastguard.

Visibility off the coast of Dorset can be 3m, compared to 30m in the Red Sea.

Cindy Rodaway, dive liaison officer for Portland Coastguard, said: "Divers now tend to do their courses abroad when they're on holiday, then come straight back to the UK, from warm, clear waters, then jumping into cold, murky water and doing a 20m dive off a boat.

Decompression sickness

"Then they get panicky, their buoyancy isn't controlled and they have a rapid ascent."

Rapid ascent is the biggest risk to a scuba diver.

The pressure underwater changes the way gases are ingested into the bloodstream, so divers have to re-surface very gradually from the deep to avoid getting Decompression Sickness - otherwise known as the Bends.

It can be lethal - but Alan Clarke, from Dibden Purlieu, is one diver who survived it.

An underlying heart condition stopped Mr Clarke's body decompressing correctly during an ascent.

He said: "I lost total feeling in my left hand and then all of a sudden the feeling came back, the room swam and I had completely double vision."

Mr Clarke was taken to Poole's dive chambers where he underwent weeks of rehabilitation, had operations and spent days in a recompression chamber.

Permanent damage

"I was in a chamber for seven hours and thought I might have done permanent damage", he said.

Mr Clarke is now almost back to full fitness, but it is very unlikely he will dive again.

Diving incident researcher Gareth Lock told the BBC that 90% of diving accidents are down to human error.

He said: "It's about complacency and not sticking to the procedures that you have been taught. People get into the 'it won't happen to me' mode."

There have been two diving deaths off the coast of Dorset so far this year.

The figures were published by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

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