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Diving expert teams up with young widow to share the tragic story of her husband’s sudden death

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High risk diver and human factors expert Gareth Lock has joined forces with American widow Ashley Bugge to share the story of how her husband Brian died unexpectedly during a dive.

Gareth, who lives in Wiltshire and who travels the world sharing his knowledge of how human behaviour can affect diving, has privately funded a documentary about Brian and Ashley’s story. The film, If Only…, will be premiered at TekDiveUSA in Orlando, Florida on April 25 this year.

This is the latest move in a long-term campaign by Gareth, who is also a published author, to encourage the diving community to embrace personal responsibility in diving, to ensure continuous professional development of diving trainers and to understand that it’s not just technical problems which can crop up in diving. The behaviour of all divers and instructors can play a key role in saving or, unfortunately, ending lives.

“Ashley is the first person I know who has not followed the litigation route,” Gareth said. “She recognises that without sharing the story of what happened, others may be injured or die too. She didn’t seek to blame, she sought to learn. She knows Brian made mistakes, as we all do, but the context which led to his death is what needs to be explained if we are to learn from this.”

“Telling stories is how people learn, even if those stories are painful and emotional to tell. In diving, the ability to tell context-rich stories which highlight all the mistakes and errors made is really hard, especially when someone is seriously injured or dies.”

Gareth went to Hawaii in November last year to film the story of Brian who was an officer with the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Integrated Undersea Surveillance Systems department. He died on May 20, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii while off duty on a leisure dive. He was 35 and Ashley, a diver herself, was weeks away from having their third child.

On the day of the accident, Brian was using a rebreather device that allows divers to recycle air and inject metabolized oxygen. Unfortunately, he did not turn on his oxygen supply for his rebreather before entering the water, and within minutes, he passed away and sank to the ocean floor. The manufacturer of the equipment was not found to be at fault in Brian’s death. It would be easy to blame Brian for simply not following procedures, but events were more complicated than that.

“I made contact with Brian’s widow Ashley in November 2018 but it wasn’t until April/May 2019 that we began to put the documentary together,” Gareth said.

“The first part of the process was to bring together the three other members of the dive team, myself, Ashley plus a videographer from the Netherlands and go to Hawaii to film it. The film is currently self-funded. However, I have found a sponsor in Paradigm Human Performance Ltd, whose leadership recognises the value of talking about such events to help improve safety.

“I hope this film will provide an example of what can be done when a story can be told, and save lives in the process. This is only the start of a very long journey to improve diving safety by looking at the role human factors in diving incidents.”

Ashley said: “I took part for several reasons. The first was to do whatever I can to ensure that Brian’s name is still heard. When someone dies in a tragedy, people are often sad about it for six months and then it’s over.  I want Brian to continue to be relevant in people’s minds, particularly those in the diving community.

“I don’t care if people blame Brian for this death, I care that people don’t get complacent, they don’t get arrogant, that they take personal responsibility for their actions and their equipment. Brian was a good diver and he died. I may never know if telling our story will save a life, yet I believe it can and it will.”

Ashley avoided diving for many months after her husband’s death however she did get back into the water for filming.

“It was very emotional for me as it was when I took a memorial stone containing some of Brian’s ashes into the ocean to create a living reef. Diving was very important to us as a couple. It probably won’t be such a big part of my life now however I can assure you when I did dive again, I was ten times more stringent around my own behaviour and checking my equipment than I had been before.”

Watch the trailer of the film here:

Trailer: If Only… from The Human Diver on Vimeo.

Gareth, who lives with his family in Malmesbury, in Wiltshire had a 25-year career with the RAF as a squadron leader and flight instructor. His company – The Human Diver – educates divers – or any team undertaking any activity – the importance of decision-making, situational awareness, communication skills, leadership, teamwork and managing stress and fatigue.

Last year he published his first book titled ‘Under Pressure: Diving Deeper with Human Factors’ which has since sold thousands of copies.

Find out more at: www.thehumandiver.com

Gear Reviews

Gear Review: MK19 Evo/D420/R195 Octo Dive Regulator System from Scubapro (Watch Video)

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In a video shot exclusively for Scubaverse.com, Jeff Goodman reviews the MK19 Evo/D420/R195 Octo Dive Regulator System from Scubapro.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Scubaverse meet the Ullapool Sea Savers

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On a recent trip to the Highlands of Scotland we met up with an amazing bunch of ocean conservationists called the Ullapool Sea Savers. They are a passionate group of young people based in the beautiful coastal town of Ullapool who are working to protect the marine environment around them and it was a real pleasure to hear their ideas and to witness just how committed they are to their cause.

They are a group run by kids for kids, in response to the inspirational work of local marine campaigner Noel Hawkins. Their core premise is that people will protect what they love and they aim to show people just how much there is to love about the sea. The Ullapool Sea Savers keep things positive and work to inspire those around them and each other.

Each Sea Saver is a Species Champion, and they nominate their preferred species, learn all about them and then present a “fact fie” to the rest of the group. This ties in with the Species Champion Initiative launched by Scottish Environment LINK which asks Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to lend political support to the protection of Scotland’s threatened wildlife by becoming ‘Species Champions’. This has led to some great support from MSPs when it comes to campaigning, such as Maree Todd MSP and Minister for Children and Young People (who is also from Ullapool which helped!) becoming the Flameshell Species Champion and working closely with Caillin who is Flameshell Ambassador for the Ullapool Sea Savers. Similarly, Gail Ross MSP for our region, took on the role of Seagrass Species Champion and helped USS campaign against plans to allow Mechanical Kelp Extraction (Dredging!) to be given the go ahead in Scotland. There are plenty more example of this great partnering scheme here.

On top of this, the Ullapool Sea Savers have formed pods, and each small group selects a local campaign to work on, with the “New Wave” working on a “Drain Campaign” to educate people that litter dropped on the street ends up in the surrounding sea. They recently surveyed the litter by the first drain in the campaign and found over 300 cigarette butts that would have all washed out to sea during the next rainfall.

The “Blue Starfish” are working on a crisp packet recycling campaign, starting at the local school with hopes to widen the scale going forward. There is now also the newly formed Seal Pups Pod and we look forward to seeing what campaign they decide to focus on.

Many of the group have passed qualifications in snorkeling, diving, boat handling and they are currently learning to operate an ROV that they plan to use to mark underwater litter and ghost nets so it can be retrieved by divers. The group are also regularly found litter-picking along the coastline. As a group they have a powerful voice and recently won the Sunday Mail, Young Scot Awards 2021 for the Environment Category.

The older kids mentor some of the younger ones that are new to joining the group and what really struck us on meeting the group was how keen they were to pass on their wealth of knowledge and their passion for ocean conservation. We chatted to them about what we do and told them about some of our favourite marine life encounters from around the world. I hope we inspired them just a fraction as much as they inspired us! 

To find out more about the Ullapool Sea Savers you can visit their website by clicking here.

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