Two divers exploring a ship wreck off the Eastbourne coast died after parts of their equipment failed while they were on the sea bottom, an inquest has heard.
Peter Stanning and Chris Mehegan were part of a ten-strong group of experienced divers who went out on the English Channel to see the Persiana, a wreckage a few miles south east of Beachy Head, on June 14, 2014.
The inquest, held at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court on Monday, March 9, heard how Mr Stanning had been diving with his wife Diane when he first noticed a problem with his oxygen reading, which was about 0.5 below what it should have been. He started manually injecting oxygen into his rebreather but just a short while later, began convulsing before falling unconscious.
David Crockford, a diving expert who analysed Mr Stanning’s equipment following his death, told how three cells in the handset were much older than the recommended age -a factor that would likely cause issues with the accuracy of the device’s oxygen readings.
He told the court how the low reading on Mr Stanning’s handset had been incorrect and the oxygen level had been sufficient. Therefore, when the 44-year-old injected more oxygen into his unit, it became too much and resulted in oxygen poisoning.
Mr Mehegan had seen his co-diver come into difficulties and with three other divers, had sent him up to the surface for assistance. However, after this, the 45-year-old came into trouble himself as one of his inflator hoses burst.
The court heart how, combined with the distress of witnessing Mr Stanning’s situation, Mr Mehegan became panicked and had problems breathing. He tried to rearrange his kit but as nothing seemed to help, he made the decision to bolt for the surface. Unfortunately, he was unconscious by the time he got there and a post-mortem examination gave his cause of death as a diffuse gas embolism and a burst lung.
Martin Parker examining Mr Mehegan’s equipment told the court how the large hose had been cut in order to fit it into a small holding, which had over time, cut away at the hose, allowing water to get in.
Coroner Alan Craze recorded a conclusion of accidental death.