A female scuba diving student has died despite a coordinated emergency response on the beaches of Whytecliff Park Sunday.
A small diving class was exploring the waters of the popular dive spot in West Vancouver when their instructor signalled something was wrong.
“It happened about 130 feet and we started to ascend from there and it continued on the way up,” said Frank Methorst, a member of the class.
A fellow student was apparently in distress and most of the class immediately made their way back to the surface. By the time Methorst caught up, he said the student was already getting medical attention.
“We’ve gone on another course with her,” he said. “It’s pretty upsetting, it’s pretty emotional.”
The diver has now been identified as a 43-year-old woman from Surrey but her name has not been released at this time.
Emergency crews received the call around 12:30 p.m. and were quick to respond, calling in additional support including an air ambulance and a hovercraft from the Canadian Coast Guard. Despite their efforts, the patient was declared dead at the scene.
“At this time we don’t know exactly the details,” Assistant Chief Martin Leduc of the District of West Vancouver Fire Department said. “What I can tell you is we were performing CPR on the beach and the patient is deceased.”
Whytecliff Park is known as one of the province’s premiere diving destinations, which draws people of all experience levels. Local divers say they are part of a small-knit community and the tragic news hits close to home.
“You usually see the same people weekend after weekend. There’s lots of training here so there’s new people coming by all the time,” said Dennis Diamond, who believes he was diving below the group.
While emergency crews have attended scuba diving accidents at Whytecliff Park in the past, they say it’s no more dangerous than other dive spots.
“Diving has its inherent risks. I think they work hard to mitigate those,” Leduc said.