City dive trainee hospitalized after too-quick ascension

A member of the Baltimore Fire Department training to become a rescue diver was hospitalized Thursday after ascending to the surface of a Harford County quarry too quickly during a certification class, according to department officials.

The man, who has not been identified, was released from Maryland Shock Trauma Center Friday morning after being treated in its hyperbaric chamber and then being held overnight for observation, said Deputy Chief Paul Moore, director of training and education at the department's training academy.

The incident occurred at the Guppy Gulch quarry in Harford about 4 p.m., when the member ascended from about 20 feet below the surface too quickly, and then complained of "a slight dizziness and headache, and slight pain in his neck," Moore said in an email.

Department protocols call for any member experiencing any symptoms of decompression sickness to be transported to the hyperbaric chamber, Moore said. The member was symptom free about 45 minutes after arriving at the hospital, Moore said.

The department's dive team was suspended in December 2011 after another diver suffered decompression sickness after losing his oxygen feed at the bottom of a reservoir. Officials launched an investigation and determined the diver's air supply was temporarily cut off because of problems with how the equipment had been stored.

The training on Thursday was part of the department's new efforts to revamp its rescue and dive operations out of the Locust Point fire station and certify 50 new members in diving. The training process will continue, officials said.

"This incident was not due to any lack of safety or other operational procedures," Moore said. "Although we don't anticipate ever having issues or injuries in training, as members realize their capabilities for special ops there may be some which occur, as in this case."

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