Widow devastated after Portland dive tragedy

DIVE TRAGEDY: Janek Karon died while diving off Portland

DIVE TRAGEDY: Janek Karon died while diving off Portland

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

A WIDOW has said multiple failures which led to her husband’s death off Portland must make diving companies follow regulations.

The wife of 54-year-old Janek Karon said the family had been ‘left devastated’ after a company failed in its duty of care for him and he died while diving.

Bristol Crown Court heard how on Sunday, October 18, 2008, Mr Karon took part in a dive off Grove Point with Ian Johnson, an instructor and director of Subaquaholics Ltd.

When Mr Karon surfaced at the end of the dive he was unresponsive.

Mr Johnson, an instructor trained under the standards set by Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), alerted the dive boat skipper and they tried to resuscitate Mr Karon before he was airlifted to Dorset County Hospital and pronounced dead.

During an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Subaquaholics was unable to produce any medical screening forms which Mr Karon should have completed before being allowed to dive.

It is a legal requirement that student divers under training are medically fit to dive.

The court heard that had Mr Karon completed a form it would have flagged-up conditions which put him at risk of coronary artery disease and resulted in his referral to his GP.

Mr Karon’s GP was interviewed by the HSE and confirmed she would not have passed him as fit.

Mr Karon was obese, had high blood pressure, a high cholesterol reading and chronic kidney disease. He had been prescribed statins and also suffered from Raynaud’s syndrome – where the vascular system responds to cold by shutting down the circulation in the extremities.

An open verdict was recorded at the inquest in to Mr Karon’s death in 2010 but coroner Michael Johnston said the deceased had a severe heart condition which meant he could have ‘dropped dead at any minute’ and should have been referred to his GP before diving.

Mr Karon’s daughter, Emma, then aged 10, also took part on Subaquaholics dives.

Her mother had filled in a medical form for the company stating that Emma suffered from asthma and had a prescription for asthma medication.

Emma was not referred to a GP before being allowed to dive, even though it was a legal requirement with this condition.

The investigation also uncovered unsafe procedures at the company, including a lack of proper risk assessments for the dives and no diving logs for the weekend’s activities.

Subaquaholics was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Diving instructor Ian Johnson, of Bristol, pleaded guilty as dive supervisor to breaching Regulation 10 (1) of the Diving at Work Regulations 1997 for both Mr Karon and his daughter Emma and was fined £5,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Richard Martins, said: “Both Ian Johnson and his company Subaquaholics Ltd fell far below the standard required of those who engage in SCUBA diver training.

“Mr Karon’s health should have prevented him from diving and yet he was taken to a depth which only experienced divers should reach.”

Distraught Family Hits Out Over ‘Avoidable’ loss

Shirley Karon, Janek’s widow, said: “Our family has been devastated by this needless tragedy which has left me without my husband and my two daughters, Tasha and Emma, without their dad.

“The fourth anniversary of Jan’s death is approaching but every day there is something to remind us that he is no longer here.

“The multiple failures revealed in this court case must send a message to those in the diver training industry that they have peoples’ lives in their hands.

“Companies responsible for teaching people to dive must follow the regulations.

“We do not want more people to die in avoidable circumstances.”

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