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Diving fatality in the Blue Hole, Dahab: Barbara Dillinger



Various videos on the web show a badly decomposed body lying somewhere on the sloping floor of the Blue Hole, and people believe this to be Barbara Dillinger (RIP 1974-1998), an Argentenian woman. After watching an interview by the staff of a dive centre in the documentary "The Sacred Truth: The Blue Hole of Dahab" by Elena Konstantinou, I wanted to try and set the record straight.

According to the interview, she died as a result of a burst lung from rapid ascent in the Blue Hole of Dahab. During her dive she must have panicked, probably due to a combination of nitrogen narcosis and made worse by the eerie atmosphere created by the arch and the Blue Hole itself, and she subsequently attempted to swim up to the surface too fast, failing to exhale properly. This caused the lungs to over-expand due to the dropping water pressure as she went up towards the surface.

She was taken to a dive centre in Dahab, where the staff sent her to Sharm El Sheikh via ambulance. She was let down by luck; the oxygen tanks in the ambulance were almost empty, and the vehicle would also run out of fuel on the way.

She passed away whilst her rescuers were waiting for fuel to arrive.

Moral of the story - don't dive beyond your training, and don't dive in an overhead environment and/or conditions which you haven't developed the correct awareness for.

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Background

Dozens of people die every year in the Blue Hole, the true figures have never been revealed by the Egyptian authorities. Many dive centres are willing to guide inexperienced people through the arch which opens up from about 55m down inside the Blue Hole. 55m is very close to the limit set by most diver training agenices as the maximum recommended depth for diving air. Air contains a high percentage of Nitrogen (79%), which has narcotic effects on the body when breathed at high pressure. The effect of narcosis on the diver depends on their state of mind during the dive. The onset of nitrogen narcosis and it's effects are somewhat unpredictable, it can sometimes produce a feeling of euphoria, at other times sheer panic. Many inexperienced divers seem to succumb to panic under narcosis in the Blue Hole when swimming under the arch, as it can be dark and gloomy environment. With it's sheer overwhelming scale and the roof of the arch blocking the route to the surface, it can be a scary place to push one's luck!

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