I saw this write up from the Boat Captain/Trip Leader about the disappearance of Didrik Hurum @arctic_freediver) spearfishing off Stradbroke Island in Australia. Didrik was a very experienced spearfisherman and also a competent freediver who regularly spearfished at 100'. It's so valuable to hear about the events which led up to accidents like this in order that we can try to recognize any similarities in our own practice and learn. It's terrible when these events happen, but it is worse when something like this is shrouded in secrecy and the story is never told by those who were directly involved and nobody learns from the tragedy. In my opinion, if you are involved in an event like this, you should come forward and openly discuss it with the community even if it is painful and shows your own faults. A lot of people would jump on Anthony Sercombe and lay some blame on him for not keeping Didrik out of the water on this day. But, what should have happened was that Didrik himself should have recognized that this was not his day and manned the boat for everyone else. There is a lot to learn here as with every single instance where we lose a member of the Spearfishing community. In this particular forum, the past two tragedies which involved members of the forum have not been discussed with firsthand accounts from those who were there and we have learned 0 from those events which could help to prevent another.
What I pick up on from this tragedy.
-Diving with new partners who are unfamilar with each other.
-Diving deep. Diving Deeper than the visibility allows to keep an eye on each other. I'm not talking about diving 25' in 12' of vis.. These guys are going 90+' without being able to spot each other.
-Diving Deep once you've had a Samba that day.
-Diving Deep once you've been Seasick that day.
It's taken a few days of processing the tragic events of Wednesday, June 23 and I wasn't going to post anything about what happened. However if it can help people in being more aware of the dangers of freedive spearfishing that'd be a good thing as I know how much this has hit home locally in SEQ and in the spearing community. Also as I was the last person to see Didrik before he disappeared I can give the most accurate account of what actually happened for anyone who wants to know first hand.This will be lengthy so I apologise for that.
First of all my heartfelt thoughts and condolences go to Didriks family and friends. I couldn't imagine the pain and heartache they must be feeling being stuck on the other side of the world knowing their boy isn't coming home. I only knew Didrik for 6 hours but from seeing the efforts that so many people are making to still search for him speaks of his character and his impact on people.
Didrik messaged me on the Tuesday afternoon asking if I had a spot for him on the boat the following day. I was slightly hesitant given I had never met or dove with him before. Also 4 days earlier I saved another diver from a blackout that came out with me that I had only dived with that day. However from what I had heard from some other local divers he was a competent diver so I invited him along.
I first met him a 4 am when he met at my place and we picked up a mate and experienced spearo Jack Howard and a young friend of his Saxon.
We made our way out to the dive areas off North Stradbroke. After diving some areas with less then ideal vis and conditions we made our way to an outer shoal in search of better vis and fish life. This area is renowned for strong current, deep water often poor vis with big thermoclines and big bull sharks. This day was no exception with around 2 knots current and only about 6-8 metres vis on the bottom. However the fish life was really good which I fear may have led to Didriks demise.
Our first drift out the Didrik shot a big Mackerel around 23-24 kg. The fish took off and while hearing the shot I couldn't see him until he started to ascend 10 metres from the surface. He had already engaged his belt reel and was holding onto it on the surface. I dove down to grab the reel line to assist with fighting the fish when I noticed he was having a samba on the surface, still holding onto his reel. I held him up as Jack and I were both holding onto the reel line yet he wouldn't let go of the line. He came to in about 5 - 10 seconds and we proceeded to land the fish.
Once we were all in the boat I mentioned to the boys I had already had 1 guy black out only a few days earlier and 2 close calls in a week was enough. And that we needed to take it easy. Didrik stayed in the boat and had a break for about an hour until he got back in the water at the same area. I found out later that he had been sea sick in the boat and had been vomiting. Jack opted to go boaty to have a break with Saxon in the boat with him so Didrik and I did a drift. He was drifting with the flasher so I assumed he was just going to take it easy. I made a dive in around 30 metres of water but pulled up a few metres from the bottom just out of caution because of the conditions and what happened earlier. I reached the surface right next to Didrik. His last words to me were " are we still on the reef" which I said yes, yet knowing we were approaching the southern end where it tapers off to 40 metres plus. He made a dive within a minute or so and that's the last I saw of him. After a few minutes of drifting without me or the boys in the boat seeing him I deep down knew what had happened but hoped he was just drifting in the suns glare. After 40 minutes of searching in the boat we called the authorities to start a search but we knew what had happened. From there Police divers have found his speargun on the reef, still loaded but nothing else.
It's tragic that a life was taken unnecessarily. Being the boat owner I have felt this natural sense of responsibility and that I could have done things differently also. I wouldn't wish the feeling and eeriness of driving back to the ramp with 1 person less then you left with in the morning.
A reminder to spearos just starting or veterans that spearfishing isn't all about diving deep and long. There isn't a benchmark in time or depth that you HAVE to hit to be considered "good". And for the guys pushing deeper water; SLOW DOWN ! It's a marathon not a sprint and it takes time to progress. These are all mistakes I have made myself and have been lucky at times to still be here. I fear that Didriks quest to hit certain depths and times may have led to the events of that day.
Feel free to share this post to spread the word and remind divers to lookout for themselves and each other.
And finally thankyou to everyone that has reached out to me to offer support although I feel funny about it knowing there is a family and friends hurting far far more then me, none the less it is very much appreciated."
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