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27.03.2019 | Original Article | Ausgabe 2/2019

Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology 2/2019

Diving-related fatalities: multidisciplinary, experience-based investigation

Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology > Ausgabe 2/2019
Josep M. Casadesús, Fernando Aguirre, Ana Carrera, Pere Boadas-Vaello, Maria T. Serrando, Francisco Reina
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To describe the technical characteristics of fatal diving mishaps and to elucidate the causes of death using a sequence analysis and a multidisciplinary investigation of diving-related fatalities. All cases of diving deaths recorded on the coast of Girona (Spain) between January 2009 and May 2018 were analyzed. Most data were obtained from the police technical reports and the forensic pathology service. Each accident was analyzed in order to identify the trigger, disabling agent, disabling injury, and cause of death. During the study period 25 diving-related fatalities were recorded. Most of the victims were males aged 50–69 years, and 11 were experienced divers. Almost all victims were using open-circuit SCUBA to breathe with compressed air as their sole gas supply. None of the victims were diving alone. The most common identified triggers included exertion, panic, buoyancy problems, disorientation and confusion. The main factors identified as disabling agents were rapid ascent, a cardiac incident, panic and entrapment. Asphyxia, lung over expansion, and myocardial ischemia were the most frequent disabling injuries. Finally, drowning represented the main cause of death, followed by arterial gas embolism and natural causes or internal diseases. A differential diagnosis, performed in the setting of a multidisciplinary investigation, is essential for elucidating the cause of death in diving-related fatalities. The proposed sequence analysis allows to clarify underlying problems in these cases and to identify risk factors and unsafe behaviors in diving.

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