Yesterday myself and another team member went to assist a civilian with 16"
culvert that had a storm flap (prevent backflow) stuck open, on a non county
sanctioned dive. We've had tons of rain lately and all ditches and rivers are
at bankfull or flooding. They had placed a sheet of plywood on the discharge
end and held it in place with a trackhoe bucket so there would be no suction
into the pipe. The 16" culvert was 5-6' below the surface and about 4' from
shore. The surface appeared calm and no current. I walked out to a depth of 4'
, facing shore, and began to descend. I immediately noticed I was being
pulled backwards into the ditch. Next I spun or tumbled and felt the edge of a
culvert that was sucking me in and then it was black. The landowner did not
inform us of a 5' culvert about 8'-10' from the 16". Visibility was zero and
neither pipe could be seen from the surface. I was fortunate to grab the edge of
the culkvert as it sucked my entire body into it. I was hanging from my arms
as the water started pulling my mask off. I do not know if I was facing up,
down or sideways it all happened so fast. Due to positive pressure AGA I was
still able to get some air by straining through my teeth. Inhaled some water
too. My mask was being pulled from my face and I thought I was going to die.
The mask was starting to ride up over my chin and deciding there was no way I
was going to die like this I used all my strength to pull myself up and
force my mask down with my forearm to yell into the mic for help. I could not let
go to adjust it. the line tender had to get help to pull me free. Our full
face masks and hardwire comms were recently purchased by a generous donation,
I believe without them I would not be writing this. I should have done a
better scene evaluation and asked more questions.
After we all regained composure we noticed small whirlpools in the surface
under debris where the 5' pipe was. Looking at the discharge 60' away revealed
a churning creek coming out. Matbe if I would have cut loose I would've
popped out the other side or been snagged on debris somewhere inside. I feel very
lucky and just wanted to pass this on FYI.
Be extremely careful around culverts. The risk/benefit was not worth
performing this dive.