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Diving expert teams up with young widow to share the tragic story of her husband’s sudden death.

High risk diver and human factors expert Gareth Lock has joined forces with American widow Ashley Bugge to share the story of how her husband Brian died unexpectedly during a dive.

Gareth, who lives in Wiltshire and who travels the world sharing his knowledge of how human behaviour can affect diving, has privately funded a documentary about Brian and Ashley’s story. The film, If Only…, will be premiered at TekDiveUSA in Orlando, Florida on April 25 this year. 

This is the latest move in a long-term campaign by Gareth, who is also a published author, to encourage the diving community to embrace personal responsibility in diving, to ensure continuous professional development of diving trainers and to understand that it’s not just technical problems which can crop up in diving. The behaviour of all divers and instructors can play a key role in saving or, unfortunately, ending lives. 

“Ashley is the first person I know who has not followed the litigation route,” Gareth said. “She recognises that without sharing the story of what happened, others may be injured or die too. She didn’t seek to blame, she sought to learn. She knows Brian made mistakes, as we all do, but the context which led to his death is what needs to be explained if we are to learn from this.”

“Telling stories is how people learn, even if those stories are painful and emotional to tell. In diving, the ability to tell context-rich stories which highlight all the mistakes and errors made is really hard, especially when someone is seriously injured or dies.”

Gareth went to Hawaii in November last year to film the story of Brian who was an officer with the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Integrated Undersea Surveillance Systems department. He died on May 20, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii while off duty on a leisure dive. He was 35 and Ashley, a diver herself, was weeks away from having their third child. 

On the day of the accident, Brian was using a rebreather device that allows divers to recycle air and inject metabolized oxygen. Unfortunately, he did not turn on his oxygen supply for his rebreather before entering the water, and within minutes, he passed away and sank to the ocean floor. The manufacturer of the equipment was not found to be at fault in Brian’s death. It would be easy to blame Brian for simply not following procedures, but events were more complicated than that. 

“I made contact with Brian’s widow Ashley in November 2018 but it wasn’t until April/May 2019 that we began to put the documentary together,” Gareth said. 

“The first part of the process was to bring together the three other members of the dive team, myself, Ashley plus a videographer from the Netherlands and go to Hawaii to film it. The film is currently self-funded. However, I have found a sponsor in Paradigm Human Performance Ltd, whose leadership recognises the value of talking about such events to help improve safety.

“I hope this film will provide an example of what can be done when a story can be told, and save lives in the process. This is only the start of a very long journey to improve diving safety by looking at the role human factors in diving incidents.”

Ashley said: “I took part for several reasons. The first was to do whatever I can to ensure that Brian’s name is still heard. When someone dies in a tragedy, people are often sad about it for six months and then it’s over.  I want Brian to continue to be relevant in people’s minds, particularly those in the diving community.

“I don’t care if people blame Brian for this death, I care that people don’t get complacent, they don’t get arrogant, that they take personal responsibility for their actions and their equipment. Brian was a good diver and he died. I may never know if telling our story will save a life, yet I believe it can and it will.”

Ashley avoided diving for many months after her husband’s death however she did get back into the water for filming. 

“It was very emotional for me as it was when I took a memorial stone containing some of Brian’s ashes into the ocean to create a living reef. Diving was very important to us as a couple. It probably won’t be such a big part of my life now however I can assure you when I did dive again, I was ten times more stringent around my own behaviour and checking my equipment than I had been before.”

Gareth, who lives with his family in Malmesbury, in Wiltshire had a 25-year career with the RAF as a squadron leader and flight instructor. His company – The Human Diver – educates divers – or any team undertaking any activity – the importance of decision-making, situational awareness, communication skills, leadership, teamwork and managing stress and fatigue. 

Last year he published his first book titled ‘Under Pressure: Diving Deeper with Human Factors’ which has since sold thousands of copies.

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