banner 2
Skip Navigation Links

The 2013 La Paz World Cup is coming...

Read about how to save someones life by shooting them!!!!!

I want to start this email off by giving God all the glory right now, the fact that I'm even around right now is nothing short of a miracle. Without Cameron Kirkconnell's quick thinking and actions, I'm sure I'd be laying in 180ft of water off the west coast of Florida. This is my account of the incident, and much of it will overlap with Cam's which I will include at the end of this email for those who have not read it. This all occurred while freediving, there were no tanks involved whatsoever. I was wearing board shorts and a rashguard, no wetsuit and no weightbelt, water temp was around 85*F. We had planned this to be the last dive of the day, 70 miles offshore of Englewood, FL, in 180 ft. of water and it was approaching 6:00pm.

On a previous dive, we had spotted a cubera snapper in the 100lb class, between 75 and 100 ft, and discussed our tactics on the surface prior to the drop. We'd always joked around about rigging a fishing rod directly to the shooting line on the gun to reel the fish in, and for one time out of the thousands of combined shots that we had taken, Cameron decided to give it a try. After a thorough 5-7 minute surface breathe up, I dropped down to somewhere between 75 and 100 ft (I was not wearing a freediving computer) to look for the fish. After about a minute of searching, I decided to head for the surface as I could not find the fish. Cameron observed much of my ascent and dropped down to look around for the cubera with his fishing reel Hawaiian-breakaway setup."

I remember swimming upwards and seeing ripples on the surface appx. 25 ft away in the crystal clear water, and instantaneously, bam, I was out cold, shallow water black out. As Cameron lined up the shot on the cubera, the white handle of my speargun sinking past him caught the corner of his eye, moments before he pulled the trigger. At this time, he looked up to see me sinking head first, unconscious and convulsing, about 60 ft away from him laterally in the water.

He immediately dropped his weight belt and swam full speed at me with hopes to get a shot off at the meat of my thigh for a good holding shot, but could not be confident that such a shot would hold at a distance. His second thought was to shoot my calf, but the bones of my lower leg blocked the shot as I was facing him. For a split second, my fiberglass longblade fins turned broadside towards him and he squeezed the trigger, wham, a perfect penetrating shot to the center of my fin. Cam has said that, at this point, it was the closest he had ever been to blacking out himself. However, he made it to the surface and proceeded to instruct everyone on the boat to cut the achor line and reel in his shaft, because I was on the other end and had drowned.

When I reached the boat, I had been under water for appx. 3 and a half to 4 minutes at depth; my body was limp and completely blue, I was also bleeding out of my eyes, ears, nose and mouth. I had a faint pulse but was unconscious and not breathing, and my airway was not opened. This is what is known as a "dry drowning" because the glottis in the back of my throat had closed, not allowing air or water to enter or exit. Cam tilted my chin back and head to the side, blowing air across my cheeks and under my eyes to stimulate breathing as you would an infant.
At this point, still unconscious, some foamy, blood-like fluid (called "sputum," the result of a pulmonary edema) leaked from the side of my mouth. After a short time I sputtered a small cough and took what Cam described as a 1% lung capacity breath. Another 30 seconds later, I did this again with more sputum foaming from my mouth, and after 10 minutes or so of this repetitive action, I had about 15% lung capacity.

This entire time, Cameron and the others on the boat were on the radio with the Coast Guard to get oxygen out to us ASAP. I can't say that I was aware for much of the time prior to this, but I remember hearing Cam's voice assuring me that everything would be okay as I drifted in and out of awareness in my own mind. Another 5 minutes later, after a total of 15-20 minutes of unresponsiveness, I finally slurred out some words and could lightly squeeze his hand. From this point on, as the boat was speeding towards shore, I slowly regained motor functions and lung capacity (up to about 30%), until the Coast Guard helicopter arrived, 45 minutes after the original accident, still 55 miles offshore. They lifted me in a basket into the copter, and I was at Tampa General Hospital within 30 minutes.

I still had very little lung capacity as they were filled with the sputum from the pulmonary edema, I was throwing up blood that was in my stomach, and my entire body ached. Luckily I dodged two other bullets which were of concern: the blood from my ears and eyes. The blood from my ears was caused by the fact that I had not equalized as I sunk from appx. 25ft to 80ft, but somehow I did not burst my ear drums and my hearing was not affected. The blood from my eyes was a result of the massive mask squeeze on my face caused by the fact that I had also not blown air into my mask to compensate for compression as I was sinking, but once again I escaped without injury. I spent a total of one day in the Trauma Center, two days in the Intensive Care Unit, and one day on the hospital floor, with the majority of the time spent concentrating on reducing the amount of fluid in my lungs. There was absolutely no long term damage to my body or brain, and my lung capacity is back to nearly 100% after only days.

I can not stress enough how amazingly fortunate I was. I am not aware of anyone else surviving a shallow water blackout after being retrieved from such depth without major physical and mental damage. Every little thing worked out perfectly, and if anything was different, I can say with 100% confidence that I would not be here. If I had watched the whole thing from a third person standpoint, I would also say that there is no way I should have survived. Why we decided to rig the gun to the fishing reel on the boat for this one shot out of the thousands we had taken in our lives, I don't know. How my gun sank right next to Cam, I don't know. How he saw the gun before pulling the trigger on the fish and thus not having a shot left for me, I don't know. Why the shaft penetrated my fin perfectly without cracking it or breaking, I don't know. Why my fin didn't slip off while I was being reeled in resulting in me sinking, I don't know. Why my ear drums didn't burst and my eyes sucked out of my head, I don't know. All I do know is that I'm here, and God is great.

Cameron's multiple freedive spearfishing world records speak for themselves as far as his diving ability is concerned, but I'm sure he would agree that this was the best shot of his life. There is nobody else on the planet that I would trust more to take a long range shot directly at me to save my life in 200ft of water.

The scariest part is that this could happen to anybody at anytime, and those with more experience are even more susceptible to shallow water blackout. If this email and my story saves one person then everything that has happened was more than worth it. To everyone, dive safe, always dive with a buddy, and don't push your limits because NO FISH IS WORTH YOUR LIFE!

Steve Bennett

Camerons story,

Date:Sun, 6 Jul 2008 08:33:57 -0700 (PDT)
Sad but rewarding story from yesterday diving. I am going to write it all out in full but am stil la bit shook up and need to help out his family in the hospital today.
Was diving in 180 ft of water with a friend Steve Bennet who is a 21 year old from Tarpon Springs. We were diving on an area of broken bottom in strong current from an anchored boat. Making one dive down and getting swept away each time before swimming back to the boat and resting to make another
he dove to down and was on his way back to the surface, I watched andhe looked fine and regretfully left the surface myself and headed down. I dove and while I was down at 75 ft his gun floated past me,
i immediately looked around and saw my friend upside down drifting unconcious and convulsing about 60 ft away at that same depth.
With a strong current and no one else in the water and one chance I ditched my weight belt and swam hard towards him extending the gun to shoot him. I was well past my breath hold limit and knew that there was no point of us both dying but there was only this once brief glimmer of hope to even get his body. I couldn't get close enough to be confident of penetrating his meat in his leg shooting him in the fin
headed for the surface and was as close as I have ever been to blacking out in my life. before the dive, by pure luck we had secured my gun to a huge fishing reel on the boat in anticipation of me shooting a 100 lb Cubera snapper which we had seen at depth.
I screamed for the boat to cut the anchor line, reel up my gun because it had Steve on it.
Suffice to say despite my yelling of orders and trying to tell them quickly that steve had drown and we were about to have to perform CPR on him they had no idea the gravity of the situation.
we pulled him to the boat and he was completely limp, bleeding from his eyes, nose, mouth and ears and was completely blue.
I put him on the back of the boat and checked his vitals immediately found a faint pulse and no breathing.
From freedive and medical training, opened his airway while talking confidently and softly to him and blowing lightly across his cheeks just under his his to trigger the breathing reflex like a new born. within the first minute and just before I was going to start rescue breaths, some foamy blood leaked from the side of his mouth and i turned him on his side and supported him so as to ease the flow of fluid from his lungs.
a short while later he sputtered a bit and was able to take in what i would estimate was a 1% capacity breath.
20 seconds later he made another one and expelled more foamy blood from his mouth and nose. with each sputter he expelled more and within 10 minutes he could take about a 15% breath but was still completely unresponsive and from what i could see in a comatose state with only his body barely functioning.
The whole time we are on the radio with the coast guard and are 70 miles off shore.
After 15 minutes he started to slurr and for the first time was able to squeeze my hand slightly letting me know that he could hear me.
From there i sat him in my arms and over the next 20 minutes as we sped in as fast as the boat would go he regained more and more motor functions and was able to talk more and more. 45 minutes from the time it happened and still 55 miles off shore we rendezvous with a coast guard helicopter and airlifted him to Tampa General hospital.
He has severe lung damage but is alive and has no noticeable brain damage. He is stable and will live a lot happier having not been shot in the leg or having sunk to 180 feet never to be seen again. The best shot I have ever made.
This is the single heaviest thing that was ever happened to me or any diver I've ever talked to. Throughout the ordeal if i was looking at it from the outside i would have told anyone with a 99% certainty there was no chance he would ever regain conciousness or be able to be recovered from that depth or the fin would have stayed on or the second diver would have been able to get him or the fin dould not have split. Once in the boat... the worst sight I've ever seen. NO one should be able to live through that. the human body is an amazing thing and that he came back is a miracle.
Thank your lucky stars tonight because it is possible for everything to align perfectly and work out sometimes

© 20 Fathoms 1666 Maryland Street, Redwood City, CA 94061