Stephen O’Malley was wearing a head camera when he suffered a heart attack because kit around his neck was too tight
The tragic last dive of a commercial diver from Wirral was shown to members of his family at an inquest in Liverpool.
The upsetting footage, captured on his helmet camera, recorded Stephen O’Malley screaming for help as he struggled for breath while working on an off-shore wind farm in Bokum, Germany in May 2012.
Mr O’Malley, 48, from Bebington, was heard complaining that his neck dam ring – worn around his neck to stop water getting into his helmet – was too tight and was “choking” him.
He was then pulled back towards the vessel and at four minutes 36 seconds into the dive was heard in distress and screaming “help me, get me up”.
But it wasn’t until 8 minutes and 35 minutes into the dive that his supervisor Roy Davis called for a stand-by diver to go in to help.
The second diver, Mark Griffiths, was recorded going into the water less than 30 seconds later and telling his supervisor he was struggling to find the c-clip on Mr O’Malley’s harness to attach a line and pull him onto the ship.
Mr O’Malley was pulled back onto the vessel about 15 minutes after the dive started, but the inquest was told he was pronounced dead by a doctor who was flown out to the vessel after about an hour of resuscitation attempts.
The court heard authorities in Denmark – where Mr O’Malley’s employer SubC Partner was based – had found his death to be the result of an undiagnosed heart condition.
But coroner Andre Rebello described that finding as “fanciful in the extreme”.
Pathologist Dr Brian Rodgers said a post mortem found bruising to muscles in Mr O’Malley’s neck.
He found the cause of death to be hypoxic induced cardiac arrest, due to compression of his neck by an over-tight neck dam ring.
He said: “I think the over-tight neck dam ring was probably the trigger for all of this.”
Supervisor Mr Davies said in hindsight he thought he would have had an opportunity to deploy a rescue diver sooner.
He told the inquest: “Believe me, we were doing everything in our power – he’s a friend of all of ours – to get him out of the water.”
He said initial attempts to pull Mr O’Malley onto the boat did not work because he had become tangled in a line.
He told the court that deploying the standby diver immediately would have meant less people were able to try and pull Mr O’Malley back on board, as one of the crew would have to tend to the line of the other diver.
Mr Davis, who performed CPR on his friend once he was back on the boat, said Mr O’Malley would have been able to choose a neck dam ring which was a suitable size before his dive.
He said checking that the c-clip, used to hoist a diver from the water, was accessible before the dive was not standard protocol.
The coroner recorded a narrative conclusion into Mr O’Malley’s death.
He also issued a report to prevent future deaths at SubC Partner.
The report said: “The court has been advised that rescue of Mr O’Malley from the sea was delayed because the standby diver could not locate the c-clip on the back of his harness which was to facilitate hoisting him from the water.
“The court has heard that checking this c-clip is free and accessible is not part of the standard checks before a dive.
“Should such a check be part of the pre-dive protocol checks?”
The report will be issued to the Danish and UK arms of the company, as well as the Marine Accident Investigation Branch of the Department for Transport.