GLOUCESTER, MA — The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is leading an investigation with the U.S. Coast Guard into the circumstances surrounding an accident that injured a Gloucester diver Thursday at Harbor Loop, Coast Guard Lt. David Otani said yesterday.
The diver, Ted Barnes, 48, was listed in serious condition last night at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Barnes, who owns Gloucester-based Freedom Diving Corp., was cleaning the propeller and working beneath the gillnetter Ocean Pride III, which was moored near the Gloucester Seafood Auction, when the accident occurred.
The Coast Guard reported yesterday that Barnes’ air and tending lines became entangled in the propeller of a vessel. A tending line usually connects diver to the boat.
Geordie King, the boat’s owner, said he had been unaware Barnes was cleaning the boat when he started the engine just after 3 p.m. Thursday. King has said the boat was not in gear, and that the propeller still turns slowly when this happens. But he suspected that’s what injured Barnes.
Barnes had been hired to clean the boat and had last spoken to King four hours prior to the accident, King said after the incident.
“Normally, you want make sure there’s nobody down there, but we didn’t see him, and he didn’t let us know,” King said.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dive program manager Dave Dinsmore said last night that OSHA regulations require commercial divers to have both a stand-by diver, ready to jump in if there’s an emergency, and a designated person in charge topside. Dinsmore said the diver is also required to be tethered to the boat if in the water alone.
OSHA regulations only apply if the work done by Barnes was paid for, said Dinsmore.
OSHA spokesperson Ted Fitzgerald said yesterday that “one of things OSHA will be doing is looking at what happened to determine what regulations apply and determine if those were complied with.”
Fitzgerald noted that work was still being done to determine if the investigation falls under the jurisdiction of OSHA or the Coast Guard. Otani, however, confirmed last night that the two organizations will be working together, with OSHA taking the lead.
Jack Munro, a longtime Gloucester diver associated with the Diving Locker, a small repository of diving history below the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center, said Barnes was trained as a diver in Canada and has worked with both the Canadian and U.S. navies. He noted that Barnes has more than 20 years of diving experience, and said he couldn’t see him diving to clean a boat without first notifying those on board.
“Usually you put up a flag, or put a red tag near the starter,” Munro said.
After the boat was started, Glen Durgin — working aboard the Ocean Pride III at the time — saw Barnes unconscious in the water, and used a grapple to get Barnes’ head above water before emergency crews arrived.
“That’s the only thing I could think of — to get his head above water,” Durgin said.
When Gloucester firefighter and paramedic Jeff Knaak arrived, dressed in a cold water exposure suit and tethered by fire Capt. Tom LoGrande, he assisted King, who had entered the water to help keep Barnes’ afloat, back on to the Ocean Pride III.
Knaak then kept Barnes afloat until the Coast Guard’s 25-foot rescue boat arrived two minutes later, LoGrande said. The Coast Guard reported that Knaak attempted to pull Barnes from the water but was unable to.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class John Brooks said when emergency personnel attempted to pull Barnes from the water they noticed his tending line was cut.
Brooks then attempted to hoist Barnes again before both crews noticed his air-line was also entangled. Knaak used a survival knife to cut the line and the Coast Guard was able to pull him aboard its boat, the Coast Guard reported. Barnes was taken on the rescue boat to the Coast Guard station, from which he was airlifted by MedFlight to Brigham and Women’s.
Knaak stayed with Barnes en-route to the Coast Guard station to perform patient assessment. Upon arrival at the station, Gloucester paramedics Dominic Barbagallo and Carol Blanchard took over care for unspecified injuries while awaiting MedFlight, LoGrande reported.
Upon landing the flight crew took over care and Gloucester firefighters assisted loading Barnes’ into the helicopter.
“The cooperative effort of all involved, Fire, Police, Coast Guard and the crew of Ocean Pride III resulted in a successful rescue under difficult conditions,” reported LoGrande.
Barnes had been hired to clean the boat, reported King, whose boat is based out of Eliot, Maine, and occasionally stops in Gloucester.