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  • AutorenbildMichael Mutter

Plura cave disaster – the third

The Plura cave system in Norway is the deepest cave in Scandinavia and a popular destination for cave divers. In recent years, it has gained tragic notoriety due to several diving accidents. After 2 accidents in 2006 and 2014 with 3 fatalities, another fatal dive happened on April 3rd of this year.

Walensee. Image template: Karin Aggeler

In the parts of the system suitable for diving, which are accessible via the River Plura, the limestone and marble formations create narrow and angular, but also large passages and spaces with crystal-clear visibility. The water temperature in the cave varies between 2°C in winter and 4-7°C in summer, with the entrance covered by ice during the winter months.

The Team

A team of three experienced cave divers undertook a check dive in preparation for a deeper dive the next day. All three divers used rebreathers they were familiar with and wore appropriate thermal protection for the dive. Divers 1 and 3 had dived the system in previous years. Diver 1 took the lead, followed by diver 2 and diver 3. The later victim, diver 3, was an highly experienced and well-trained cave diver whose death caused great consternation in the diving community

The dive of April 3, 2024

The first half of the dive went as planned with a maximum depth of 34 meters. All three divers reached the surface after 30 minutes in the air-filled "wedding chamber", which marked about half of the excursion planned as a circular dive. The team briefly debriefed to confirm that all equipment was in perfect working order and everyone was well. After two minutes at the surface they descended again in the same formation. From the logbooks provided by the team, it appears that the descent on this second dive was also uneventful for all three divers until minute 16, when diver 3 suddenly descended from 25 m to 29 m in less than 20 seconds. At this point, diver 1 was assisting diver 2, who was switching to his backup light because the main light had failed. As he did so, diver 1 noticed diver 3's light moving erratically and heard diver 3 shouting, possibly trying to articulate a problem. When diver 1 reached diver 3, he was in a tonic-clonic epileptic seizure. The rebreather loop had fallen out of his mouth and was closed. After diver 1 had tried unsuccessfully to secure diver 3's airway, he swam the still convulsing diver towards the exit, a distance of approx. 250 m with several depth changes. When the epileptic seizure stopped after about 3 minutes, diver 1 tried again to put a regulator in diver 3's mouth, but was unable to loosen diver 3's jaw. He then swam out of the cave with him. Diver 2 swam ahead to call for help. Divers 1 and 3 reached the surface at the cave exit after 31 minutes of diving, 17 minutes after the onset of the epileptic seizure.

Resuscitation measures were initiated immediately. Oxygen and an AED were available within minutes after surfacing. The local rescue service and an emergency team by helicopter supported the resuscitation. After 2 hours, the resuscitation was aborted without success.

The detailed circumstances of the accident and reflections on it will be discussed in next week's blog post. Feel free to share your thoughts and reflections on the tragic event in the diver chat, on Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram or at

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