Diving safety comes first

 So you have this terrific vintage auto sitting in the garage that you haven’t used in ten years.

You go out to the garage, turn the key and it won’t start.

Are you surprised by this? Should the manufacturer have warned you that if you didn’t take care of the car, it wouldn’t start? Do you blame the guy who sold it to you?

The Observer on Sunday would like our readers to now parallel this situation with our front page article on diving safety in this weekend’s edition.

There have been a number of diving, snorkelling and swimming accidents in the Cayman Islands over the past several years. We’re averaging about eight to ten a year since 2006.

We realise the tourism industry sometimes takes a beating over these figures, but it is important to put them in context.

A total of 1,850,000 people visited the Cayman Islands in 2008 either on cruise ships or as stay over visitors. Many of them choose to go on snorkelling or diving trips while they’re here – the sports remain one of the Islands’ biggest attractions.

Most dive shops and tour operators these days require people to fill out and sign forms that ask them to list existing medical conditions. Some of those filling them out will not tell the truth.

Age and medical condition do play a role in many of the accidents that occur. The numbers don’t lie. Just three of the 14 people who’ve died in swimimng, snorkelling and diving accidents here within the past two years were under the age of 50 — and some were also in poor physical shape.

Some vacationers will take impractical risks; swimming too far from the boat, diving without a dive-buddy, trying to grab a stingray tail, etc. despite being warned by tour crews.

And yes, there are unscrupulous operators who cut corners, don’t do everything they can to ensure patron safety and give the entire Cayman Islands watersports industry a bad name in the process.

All of these factors have to be taken into consideration when weighing the issue of watersports safety in Cayman, and on the whole, we feel the industry here is as safe as you’d find it anywhere else in the world — probably more so.

But tour operators need to be aware of that reputation, and strive to protect it. It is incumbent upon them to do everything they can to provide their customers a safe outing. If they aren’t doing that, everyone’s good time is sure to be ruined.