Deadly Dives – The push for commercial diving regulations


Peter Pilkington lost his house, his business, his marriage and about a million dollars in the effort to prove his son wasn’t responsible for his own death in an oil-rig diving accident.

He was right. But 17 years later the U.S. Coast Guard still has not adopted safety regulations for the commercial diving industry.

It was March 4, 1996 when Brian Pilkington got the call to help inspect an oil rig off the coast of Texas. The University Prep and Diver’s Institute of Technology grad had moved from Bellevue to Houston, the center of the commercial diving industry in America.

“It was one of those days when kinda everything went wrong,” Peter Pilkington recalled.

Five divers were scheduled to be on the job that day. Only Brian and another guy showed up to meet a diving supervisor they’d never worked with before. While he’s normally the tender, that day, Brian’s job was diving.

“He was supposed to be the guy who supplies the air and runs the compressor. He was 23 at the time, assumed that this was an opportunity for him to get in the water,” Pilkington says. “Brian was a trained diver but the normal sequence is you work as a tender for three, four, five, even 10 years before you do any serious diving.”

Pilkington was under 28 feet of water, placing testing instruments on an oil rig so that measurements could be sent back to the surface.

The crew at the surface noticed pressure gauges on the air compressor supplying Pilkington dropped from 150 pounds per square inch to as little as 80 to 90 pounds per square inch.

“During the dive, Brian called to the surface and told them he was having difficulty breathing. They asked him to check his fittings. He was incoherent for a while,” says Pilkington.

The Coast Guard had already left the site. There was no backup equipment, no backup air line, no extra scuba tanks and no one available to help Brian under water.

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