Polish divers have been undertaking underwater activities in Romania since 1999. The first expedition was organised in the Banat Mountains, but all the following trips focused on the exploration of sumps in Bihor Mountains, in particular two resurgences: Izbucul de la Tauz and Cotetul Dobrestilor, situated in the Girda Seaca Valley. These expeditions were a result of the invitation of the cavers associated in a club "Sfinx" based in Girda. Rafał Garski had participated in two earlier expeditions: in the summer of 1999 in Banat and in the winter of 2001 in Bihor, where he dived both in Tauz and in Cotetul Dobrestilor. The trip in the autumn of 2002 was his third expedition to Romania. Rafał Garski was an experienced cave diver. Apart from him, the diving team for the expedition consisted of the following divers: Maciej Czykierda, Mirosław Kopertowski (both members of SG Wrocław), Jarosław Niekludow (member of KTJ Sopot), Andrzej Szerszeń (member of Speleoklub Warszawski).

  • One of the latest photos of Rafał Garski
  • Mirek Kopertowski removes unnecessary equipment from 1st sump and reconfigures guideline
  • Włodzimierz Szymanowski after diving
  • Andrzej Szerszeń before diving
  • \"We had to give evidence to the police, fortunatelly we could do it in our base

Rafał Garski began the dive at 2.45 p.m., as it can be gathered from the record on his diving computer. The planned diving time was 2 hours. After three hours his partner, who was waiting on the water edge, alarmed the other expedition participants that there had been an accident. The first searches were undertaken on the same day. Jarosław Niekludow dived in the first sump and reached the air chamber between the sumps. As he concluded, Rafal was not in the lake. The oxygen bottle to be used during decompression was at the depth of -6m. It was closed and unused, as he could state on the basis of the SPG record.

Under these circumstances, the divers in Poland were contacted. A decision was taken to organise an official rescue action of the Polish Alpine Association. The members of the rescue team were as following: Wiktor Bolek, Rafał Górecki, Włodzimierz Szymanowski i Norbert Ziober. However, the group from Poland was only able to reach Romania in two days, hence further searches were conducted by the divers already on the spot.

On 05.10.2002 Jarosław Niekludow dived to the depth of -45m in the second sump. He did not find nor the corpse nor the stage bottles, that Rafał was supposed to leave on that section of the way. The next day, that is in the evening of 06.10.2002, two dives were made with the use of trimix. Maciej Czykierda dived to the depth of -71m but the body was not found. The next dive was performed by Andrzej Szerszeń to the depth of -78m, where the corpse was found. In that area the floor fell at the angle of ca 45o and it was covered with a thick layer of fine pebbles. Rafał was lying on the stomach, with his head towards the cave opening. He held his hands in front of him, slightly bent inwards. Under his body there was a guide line. The stage bottles were attached to the both sides of his body. The second stages of the regulators of these bottles were not attached to the gum on his neck. The main set of doubles was fixed on wing style BCD. Rafał had 5 bottles on him, including a little bottle containing argon used to fill up the dry suit. The body had a considerable negative buoyancy, which made it impossible for Andrzej to inspect the equipment undearneath it. He disattached one of the stage bottles and the reel and then he started to ascend. The examination of the bottle in the home base revealed that it contained air under the pressure of 130 bar.

The following day, that is 07.10.2002, the diving team from Poland arrived. The rescue action operations undertaken up to that point were discussed and further dives were planned. It was decided that during the next dive, the body should be made ready for transportation and then dragged up to the depth of -60m at least. The rest of the day was devoted to preparing the gear for thus planned diving actions.

On 08.10.2002 Maciej Czykierda dived to the depth of -80m and he reached the body. He took out the guide line from underneath it, cutting it first below the fins. The line went out without any problems, which means Rafał had not got entangled in it. Maciej could not verify it directly, as the body was too heavy to turn. Maciej fixed the body by attaching it to tent peg*, placed above. Next, he tried to fill up the BCD by pressing the inflator, but without any success. Maciej took the other stage bottle and ascended to the surface. The second bottle also contained air, and the pressure was 100 bar.

On 09.10.2002, an attempt to bring up the body was to be made by Wiktor Bolek i Andrzej Szerszeń. The divers took with them an additional bottle that was to be used for filling up Rafał´s BCD. Andrzej reached the body first and he connected the hose of the additional bottle to the BCD`s inflator. In the meantime Wiktor cut the guide line and fixed its end. Andrzej managed to fill up the BCD, which gave the body neutral buoyancy. Ascend began. Wiktor pulled the body holding it by the bottle valve protection, while Andrzej pushed it in front of him simultaneously controlling its buoyancy. The haulage went on well and the timing of the action was in accordance with the dive plan. The body was hauled to the depth of -30m, where it was attached to the deposit point. Next, Andrzej and Wiktor surfaced themselves, carrying out the decompression as planned. As the action went on smoothly, it turned out we were able to pull out the body on the same day. Rafał Górecki i Włodzimierz Szymanowski dived to bring up the body. They hauled it from -30m up to the surface. The bottle and the remaining equipment was taken off the corpse in the lake. The manometers in the main set were examined. Both indicated the zero level. With the help of policemen and the local mountain rescue team the body was transported to the road.

In the home base the measurement of oxygen content in the bottles of main set were made. Although manometers indicated the zero level, there was still some gas in the bottles and it was going out under a pressure. The gas in the bottles contained 11-12 % oxygen, so it was a mixture appropriate ( as far as the oxygen content goes) for diving to -80m. Rafał had torches Lumen 6 fixed to his crash helmet. Both were tight and both were turned on. Inside them were alkaline batteries. The bottle containing argon to fill up the dry suit was empty, but the regulator was not tight at the valve seat. The gas outflow was not huge but during the few days when the body was under water, the bottle may have been emptied. The maximum depth registered on the computer attached to the hand was -80.4 m.

We would like to express our gratitude to Mr Christian Ciubotarescu, to the policemen from Arieseni and mountain rescue from Alba Iulia fro their help during the action. We would like to thank all divers from Romania, Hungary and Slovakia who were ready to help us if necessary. We would also like to thank Aquamatic and Ocean Pro companies for lending us the necessary diving equipment.

  • tent peg - for guide line fixing to the gravel bottom 30 cm pieces of aluminium angle were used, called "sand sabre" or "tent peg"

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