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Old 03-15-2006, 12:33 AM   #1
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Default Diver deprived of air

Diver deprived of air
Accident leaves 24-year-old in coma

By John Sullivan
Times Herald-Record
[email protected]

Chester ? Commercial diver Anthony Guarascio climbed down a ladder off a pier in Camden, N.J., in a heated dive suit and diving helmet to chip away at underwater piles of cement with a jackhammer.

As he entered the water, he was leaving his life in the hands of two co-workers who would monitor his air tanks and his progress from a two-way communication box on the pier.

Before submerging, Guarascio might have glanced across the water at the glittering Philadelphia skyline to consider, if only for a moment, his good fortune.

After a rough but not so regrettable start out of college, the 24-year-old had a good-paying job, a beautiful fiancee, and a 19-month-old son waiting for him at home in Chester in Orange County.

There was little to indicate that his luck might change as he entered the waters of the Delaware River, a 40-pound weight belt pushing him 35 feet to the bottom on that late February day.

What went wrong almost three hours later is still being investigated by federal officials, as well as family members who suspect negligence on the part of the diving company Guarascio worked for.

According to Chris Drake, the owner of Drake Associates, who was the supervisor of the dive that day, ?something? caused a critical valve to shut off on the air tanks he was monitoring for Guarascio. Drake estimates Guarascio went without air for five to 10 minutes, during which time the diver either clawed his way up one of the large underwater cement piles he was working on or used the umbilical tube feeding him air and hot water for his suit as a rope to get to the surface.

Seeing Guarascio?s body come up, Drake and another worker turned on the backup air tank to no avail. They pulled Guarascio in, using a forklift to heave his suited body by its umbilical tube to the pier 10 feet above.

Co-workers administered CPR, which restored his breathing before medics arrived to take him to Camden?s Cooper University Medical Center.
When the ambulance left, Drake examined the tank valves to find the problem. He guessed that Guarascio?s umbilical tube hit the valve at some point during the dive.

A former Navy diver and U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis graduate, Drake said he plans to add secondary locks to his equipment to ensure such an accident doesn?t happen again.

There are no standards requiring such safety features be used, he said.

?It was a terrible, terrible, freak accident that just shouldn?t have happened,? he said.

Guarascio?s family believes the accident could have been avoided.

Anthony?s younger brother, Joe Guarascio, who also works for Drake Associates, said Drake should have detected his older brother in distress over the communication box.

?There?s always supposed to be someone on the com box and watching the pressure gauges,? the younger brother said. ?If someone?s in the water and they?re in distress, you would know it and pull him up right away.?
Drake said he was standing near the communication box but that it was a windy day, making it possible for him not to hear distress calls if they were made.

Officials from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating. Calls to their Camden office were not returned.

Guarascio is sedated and in a medically-induced coma at Helen Hayes Hospital in Rockland County. Doctors at the hospital won?t know until he wakes the extent of his brain damage or his chances of recovery, family members said.

Had the accident occurred the way Drake described it, Guarascio would have had time to think, even panic, as he sucked the remnants of oxygen from his air tank.
Through his mind might have floated thoughts of a June marriage to Christine Wile, his fiancee, playing with their infant son, Michael, or joking with brothers, Joey and John, and their large group of friends.

?I miss him so much,? said Wile, the 22-year-old mother and bride-to-be. ?I just can?t wait for him to say something, anything, to me.?
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Old 03-15-2006, 10:49 AM   #2
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Wow, that freakin blows...
'Nana says "spike the box!"

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Old 03-15-2006, 03:17 PM   #3
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Hope eveything turn out ok.
It'a a bummer when you have to put your life in someone else hands and they fail you
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Old 03-16-2006, 12:44 PM   #4
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such a shame.
Stay informed on the fishing/political scene that's affecting you.

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