THE crew of a North Sea support vessel have been praised for saving the life of a diver who was stranded nearly 300ft underwater with no air line.
He was found unconscious on the seabed after an equipment malfunction thrust the boat forward, severing the connection which had been supplying him with oxygen.
But thanks to a heroic effort by the vessel’s master and fellow divers, the man was rescued and resuscitated – more than 30 minutes after getting into trouble.
Last night, bosses at Aberdeen-based Bibby Offshore praised the “skill, professionalism and expertise” of the crew.
Full details of the incident were released by the company last night. The diver and a colleague got into trouble last Thursday while they worked 262ft below the surface on a structure at the Huntington oil field, 115 miles off the coast of Peterhead.
The pair had been connected by umbilical air lines to the Bibby Topaz – a diver support vessel – when the boat changed position suddenly, dragging the men with them.
The crew onboard had initially received a warning that there was a problem with the dynamic positioning system, which controls where the vessel goes.
They instructed the divers – who were on the seabed – to return to the diving bell immediately.
However, “there was loss of position” by the vessel and she started to drift.
At this point, one of the divers noticed his umbilical line had snagged on the side of the subsea structure and tried to make contact with those onboard to ask for help.
Around two minutes later the vessel lost all communication with the diver as she continued to drift.
It was then that he noticed his umbilical line had been severed, forcing him to revert to his standby breathing gas supply.
Meanwhile, the other diver had managed to make his way back to the bell safely and those onboard the vessel battled to fix the problems which were forcing the boat off course.
At 10.17pm – five minutes after the vessel started to move – the team onboard managed to regain control, having drifted around 790ft from the boat’s original spot.
Steering the vessel manually, the master took the boat back towards the structure and used his locator beacon to find the diver, who was now unconscious.
The bell was then moved as close to him as possible before the other diver – who had managed to get to safety – went to rescue him.
Both divers were back in the bell at 10.46pm – 36 minutes after the incident started.
As soon as the pair were back in the bell the diver regained consciousness.
Both divers who were in the water and the one who had remained in the bell were put in decompression chambers onboard the Bibby Topaz before the vessel made her way back to Aberdeen harbour.
All divers were given the all-clear by doctors on Saturday and need no further treatment. A spokesman for the company said: “Bibby Offshore would like to praise the skill, professionalism and expertise of the crew of the Bibby Topaz in carrying out the safe recovery of the divers.
“Both divers made a full recovery.
“Their emergency drills worked perfectly and the treatment and support they received was first class.
“We immediately notified the authorities and are carrying out our own full investigation.”
The incident is also being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive.