The second day of the CMAS Freediving World Championships in Kas, Turkey has been canceled due to ongoing concerns around safety.
This follows on from a significant safety lapse yesterday where one of the competitors suffered a deep water blackout and drifted down to 61m before being rescued.
There is growing concern amongst competitors and fellow athletes onsite in Kas about the organization of the competition, with many taking to Facebook to express their frustration and concern.
One of the commentators on the live feed, Andrew Brussard, posted in the AIDA International Facebook group a lengthly post detailing some of the background and concerns.
The full post said:
“Hello fellow freedivers. I’m sure many of you saw the BO that happened at the CMAS World Championships. I was the commentator in that feed. I did my best to do what I was asked of in a stressful time. I’d like to post some of my thoughts on what happened. I’ll discuss situations that lead to this, what happened during the rescue from what I could see and what happened after. I am going to try my best not mention any names as I don’t want to single anyone out. This was not one single person’s fault and certainly not the safety divers fault. He did everything in his power to do what he could, he risked his life and squeezed his lungs in an attempt to save Ramon. The issue in my opinion was systemic and bureaucracy got in the way.
For weeks before the event many athletes had concerns about the abilities and organization of the safety team. Numerous people came forward myself included to various levels of authority to try to get them to better prepare the team and make changes. It became apparent in the pre comp that the team lacked organization. I raised this concern one day before but no changes were made.
The main reason more qualified safeties were not brought it in was money. The did not want to pay safety divers more than 100 Turkish lira per day. Qualified individuals stepped forward to help but for such little money I don’t blame any of them for not taking over. Look at all the fees associated with CMAS events. Look at how many athletes there are and then calculate what it would cost to bring in qualified safety divers. The first priority should always be the safety of the athletes. If this was their priorities people would have been as upset as I was which I will explain later.
Now I am not going to say I am the experienced lead safety they needed. I recognized the dive was long but I had seen in training his dives were a bit slow so I didn’t think any of it. I also failed to realize at about 42 meters he was kicking but not moving anywhere. At 40 meters his dive time was already at 3 minutes and he announced a total dive time of 2:43 so he was way too slow. The lead safety should have known something was wrong at this point and deployed the winch to start bringing him up.
Apparently the deep safety was waiting for him for quite some time but he wasn’t coming. Rumor has it he ended up going back to the surface and taking a few breaths before descending again to find him. Why nobody else was ready to take the scooter and dive is a huge question. What he did was commendable its not easy to do a repeat 42m dive after a long hang with a couple of short breaths. He risked his own life to try and reach him.
The BO occurred somewhere around 42m even though the footage showed shallower as that was the diveye depth. He ended up sinking back to around 60m. The winch was deployed very late. In addition it was extremely slow. They claim it moves at 1.3 m/s but based on the times that’s just not possible. I don’t think this system was tested enough times to know for sure. I’m not an expert on safety so I’ll leave all the issues to experts who know.
On the surface he started breathing relatively quickly within a minute or so after. He was clearly in bad shape and I’ll spare some of the details as this isn’t the point. They strapped him to a board and moved him to a smaller boat to bring him into shore.
During this time they didn’t cut the feed. I was asked at least twice and get on the camera and start speaking. I think they should have immediately cut the feed in a situation this grave but that’s their call. I did my absolute best to try to explain the situation was under control but I was quite tense and emotional. There was a point where the I can be heard in a slight argument with some of the crew cause they wanted me to talk but I didn’t know what to say. We were both under the impression the audio was cut off but it wasn’t.
The competition was canceled for the day and we went to shore. Everyone was nervous and tense. I was definitely shaken and angry cause the day before I had expressed my concerns. In a moment of frustration I posted a message to a large whatsapp group with all the competition athletes. In this message I expressed that CMAS was given warning. That help was offered but not for free. That they charged lots of fees but pinched pennies when it came to paying a safety team. I didn’t yell, I didn’t mention names but it was blunt and to the point.
As anyone could predict this was not received well. I immediately received a phone call and was yelled at for posting that message. I was told it was the wrong time do so and wrong forum. I was also told because I wasn’t a competitor I shouldn’t have said anything, mind you they weren’t a competitor either. It is my opinion this anger was directed in wrong direction. If they were as worried about the athletes as they were about not pissing off the federation their anger would have been directed at them. I can agree maybe I could have been more tactile but we repeatedly tried to voice our concerns the weeks prior and nothing had changed.
I come to find out later that because of this whatsapp message, which I will try to post soon, people said they didn’t want me on the boat or on the camera. After speaking with these people later we agreed we both were a bit emotional and should have handled things differently. They said if I wanted to do the commentating they would speak to the powers at be and explain the situation and try to smooth it over. I think regardless of whether I still wanted to do that someone should have done that anyways. It’s absurd I was the one people directed their anger at for speaking the truth of the matter.
I don’t regret the message and I don’t feel sorry. I would write it again because my only agenda is the safety of the athletes and my friends. I however have my concerns that others agendas aren’t putting athletes safety first. I think when you consider athletes safety first before all else, a much different set of reactions occur. It is my belief other agendas are at play. I wish other freedivers came to my aid but I understand they can’t piss off their federation who pays for their competition. I do believe most agreed with what I said. I have no affiliation so I was the best one to say it.
Still nobody has paid me for my day. Nobody has thanked me for doing what I could in a situation that is about as bad as it gets. They lied to me the day before when they told me each day will only be 3 hours which in reality would have been 6.5 hours. I think this situation was utterly appalling. This was avoidable and CMAS nearly killed a freediver and tarnished the reputation of the sport.
I think all management in CMAS needs to be reconsidered and we should be wary of the agendas of anyone who controls the federation. There should be direct dialog with athletes to the head of CMAS where all concerns are taken seriously. A great example of this is Alcoa a metal manufacturing company who went from having one of the worst safety records to the best with better bottom to top dialog. Direct lines of communication could have made this situation less critical.
Thanks for reading my rant. I think this may get me banned from CMAS forever but like I said I don’t care, all I care about is the safety of my fellow freedivers and friends. We need to protect this sport which is growing rapidly.”
We will bring you further information as it becomes available.