This past week, we spent the entire week in Cave Country cave diving and having fun with the family. We took all 3 of our kids and their spouses, (well a fiance in one case) as well as our 2 grandkids. While we were there, we were able to attend the memorial service for Wes Skiles who died while on a fairly benign dive in 70 feet of clear blue sea water in Boynton Beach, Florida. He was on a video shoot for National Geographic, and apparently wasn't involved in anything too strenuous or challenging during the dive. He was diving a CCR unit, but little is known about what went wrong at this point.
The entire dive community was in shock, and there was an immediate outpouring of condolences from around the world. Additionally, tech divers everywhere were stunned that Wes Skiles, one of the original and best known cave divers of all time, could suffer such an unlikely accident.
For those of us who dive CCR units, this was a severe dose of reality. If it could happen to Wes, it could certainly happen to anyone! Unfortunately, as is the case with most of these types of accidents, it is unlikely that the entire story will be made known. Either due to lack of information, or reluctance to speak publicly about well known figures, the information surrounding the cause of death is rarely made public. The one thing that does happen however, is that hopefully many of us to stop and consider our own diving practices, and hopefully recommit ourselves to ensuring that we are safeguarding our own fragile lives.
When we dive, especially technical dives, we are placing ourselves in a harsh unforgiving environment. Hopefully, Wes' unfortunate death will serve as a reminder to all of the rest of the technical diving community, that none of us are above having things go wrong. I know that I will approach my personal diving with a renewed commitment to ensuring that I prepare and execute every single dive as though it is the most important one I will ever make.
Wes Skiles was an incredible underwater explorer, diver, cave diver, underwater photographer, underwater videographer and environmental advocate for the planet. It is a huge loss for the diving community that he has left us this early, but his presence will long be felt and experienced through those in the diving community that he has touched. The close to a 1000 people that showed up to Wes Skiles' memorial service is a small testament to how many people he influenced with this photos, videos and infectious enthusiasm for life.