As we pointed out in the spring 2013 edition of the Alert Diver, even being a dive buddy has potential legal implications. So, to bump this up a notch, what about the diver training organisations themselves? Where do they stand? How do they relate to South African law? Are they all considered the same under our legal system in spite of the differences in organisational structures and training programmes? How does this affect their respective instructors and trainee divers from a legal perspective? These are not exactly simple questions. It is certainly true that the respective training organisations differ in a number of ways. However, this does not imply that there are necessarily differential legal implications for each of them. In fact, under South African law, the legal principles are common in all matters. Therefore, if you suffer a loss and you (or your estate in the case of a fatality) wish to recover damages, the legal principles would be applied commonly; whether you are driving or diving. Although not a frequent occurrence, there have been quite a number of law suits associated with diving injuries and damages in South Africa. This is not surprising, as the occurrence of law suits is really a function of “numbers”. As training increases, so do the chances of injuries and, with it, the chances of legal recourse. So, it remains wise to insure yourself, your equipment or your business in a proper and effective way. But before getting back to the potential differences amongst the training agencies, let’s first explore the foundational legal principles on which any civil claim would be adjudicated: inherent risk, negligence and duty to take care.
RESEARCH, EDUCATION & MEDICINE ADVANCED DIVING Empowering a Spectacle By Robert Soncini Cirque du Soleil’s O is a performance like no other. Its stage is a 25-foot-deep pool, and its artists require carefully choreographed assistance from a team of 14 divers throughout the show. It is 6:30 p.m. in Las Vegas, Nev. In a small office at the Bellagio Resort and Casino, the dive plan is called into action: “… Jorge as Philemon, Anja as Aurora, Benedict as Le Vieux … duo trapeze with the Alimovas … 15 artists in Barge ….” This is not a typical dive plan. At this briefing, members of the aquatics team are discussing the lineup for tonight’s performances of O by Cirque du Soleil. Meanwhile, 1,800 guests are filing into the theatre to witness the spectacle. For more than 8,000 shows, the team of divers, known as artist handlers, has functioned as the show’s safety divers, trained its staff and given support behind the scenes and beneath the surface of “the stage” The stage is a 1.5-million-gallon, 25-foot-deep pool that is heated to 87°F and equipped with seven hydraulic lifts that allow the performance to take place anywhere from 18 inches above the surface to 17 feet below. During each show 14 divers work in perfect synchronization — according to their own choreography — with what is happening on stage. They rely on guidance from “the crow’s nest,” a console 45 feet above the stage, in which a member of the aquatics team monitors six carpenter divers and two rigger divers. These divers are responsible for prop manipulation and scene set up and teardown, all of which they do while on scuba. Four other members of the aquatics team focus on supporting the artists by providing them air and swimming them to and from various places in the pool, which is integral to the theatre magic. Two aquatics team members wear full-face masks and function as “divecomms.” These divers are in direct contact with the crow’s nest via hardwired communications — they observe firsthand what is occurring underwater and report any delays or maintenance needs to the crow’s nest. In the crow’s nest, the operator monitors seven closed-circuit television screens that show different views of the stage both above and below the water. The crow’s nest monitors the status of the pool and communicates with stage management about when it is safe to take the next cue to keep the show moving forward. Between artists and technicians, it takes nearly 200 people to put on the production that is O. Though the name of the show is simple (O is the phonetic pronunciation of the French word for water, eau), the production is anything but. Before the show’s creation in 1997, there was no precedent for such a performance. The creators literally wrote the book that laid the foundation for this sort of production, and other shows around the world have since been modeled after O. The technical team is well versed in stagecraft, having worked on other shows in Las Vegas and around the world, but the aquatics team is unique to O. The aquatics team, which is made up of divemasters and instructors with diverse experiences and backgrounds, includes recreational scuba professionals, engineers, commercial divers, search and rescue divers, boat captains and cruise ship workers. The artist handlers’ job is quite different from that of a traditional stagehand. First and foremost, these divers focus on safety. The entire production team is proud of the show’s safety record. Aquatics team members frequently rehearse rescue procedures, emergency responses and contingency plans. Each team member completes a custom lifeguard training program as well as an American Red Cross Emergency Medical Response course. Aquatics team members also provide scuba training for their colleagues when the show requires it, training technicians as rescue divers and artists as basic confined-water divers. They also train the technicians in DAN’s Emergency Oxygen for Scuba Diving Injuries course. The artist handlers’ diving rig is truly unique. Each diver has four second stages attached to the first stage: one for him or her and three to hand to artists as needed. In the pool, an additional 35 regulators are connected to a hookah system that artists can swim to and breathe from COURTESY CIRQUE DU SOLEIL 44 | SPRING 2016
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