It's been a couple of months now since the accident. It's been on my mind a lot as I regularly dive with pantoja and he's been out of commission since and will continue to be for a few more months. I wanted to talk about the accident publicly for a while now but held back because I felt that it was inappropriate. A couple of days ago Pantoja told me that he doesn't mind. This is for divers to take a lesson and be careful, and understand why we insist on some safety procedures.
I pulled out of that trip the night before due to not feeling rested. Pantoja took three divers out on his boat. They hit a school of mangroves but wend back to the dock because one of the divers who wasn't feeling well. After dropping him off they returned to the same spot, anchored and Pantoja proceeded to put up the dive flag. Unknown to him one of the divers placed a speargun in the fin bucket. This is a square plastic trash can that we fastened to the back of the seat and is supposed to be for fins only.
The speargun was a Rob Allen with a tricut point spear, and was placed with the spear pointing up and sideways. Pantoja was standing on the seat raising the dive flag over the canopy. After raising the flag he jumped down and onto the spear. The spear struck the lower ribs on the right side, traveled upwards along them and penetrated between the upper ribs going into the lung. Sergio made an instant decision to remove it. The spear was embedded past the flopper so to remove it he had to twist it the same way we do to get it out of a fish. Then they sped back to the dock which was two or three miles away. It is my understanding that Sergio had to drive the boat himself at some point and also dock it. During all this emergency assistance was called and he was air lifted by helicopter from Haulover park to Jackson hospital.
The spear penetrated the lung and the lung collapsed. Sergio had a tube put into the lung which was sucking out the blood accumulating there. I went to visit him the next day and it was obvious he was in a lot of pain. He was in a hospital bed with very limited movement and a tube in his chest for a week.
I see him pretty normal now except for the psychological strain of not being able to do what he loves. There is little information about the time it takes for a lung to recuperate fully from such a thing. The affects of diving and pressure could possibly cause it to collapse again and make things even worse than the effects of the accident in the first place. Common sense dictates to wait as long as possible before putting the lung through the exertions of deep diving.
Everybody was really great through this and there was a lot of support from those who know Pantoja in the spearfishing community which was great to see. Some of you really came through, you know who you are. Best wishes Sergio and I want to see you in the water soon because that's what you're all about.