View Full Version : Incident on the Waage Drill I, 1974

Michael Smart
10-12-2013, 08:51 PM
Shortly after midnight on October 14, 1974, Comex divers John Clarke and Christopher Broady were lowered by crane in a basket to the waterline from the drill rig, Waage Drill I. A critical link in one of the rig’s massive anchor chains had broken, and the dive plan was to repair it by having Clarke remain on the surface of the water with Broady swimming down about 40 feet to attach a winch wire to the end of the chain section dangling from the anchor.1 Once Broady made the connection, Clarke would relay that information to a man standing on a nearby catwalk, who would then radio instructions to the winch operator on the rig to begin hoisting the end of the chain out of the water for the repair.

Dressed in wet suits, both divers jumped from the dive basket into the water. Each man was equipped with twin scuba bottles, regulator, face mask, life vest, weight belt, and fins.2 They had no lifeline, no communications, and there was no third diver acting as standby if something should go wrong. Broady and Clarke were on their own.

In the water, the Comex duo swam the 25 yards to Column 1 where anchor No. 7 was resting half out of the water on a large metal frame called an anchor bolster. Leaving Clarke on the surface, Broady immediately submerged and began swimming down the anchor chain. Sea conditions were reportedly calm that day; swells were only 2-4 feet high,3 but sufficient enough to throw Clarke against the bolster fracturing five of his ribs.4

Meanwhile, 40 feet below, Broady discovered that the winch wire had come up 10 feet short of its destination. He had to ask topside to lower the wire, and with no way to communicate this information to his supervisor, he swam up to the surface only to find Clarke in distress, with his regulator out of his mouth, and struggling in vain to climb the bolster to get out of the water.

Wasting no time, Broady swam over to Clarke, ditched his weight belt, inflated his life vest, and put his regulator back into his mouth.5 For a few moments Broady even tried to help his buddy climb the bolster, but the air tanks on Clarke’s back weighed more than 80 pounds,6 and Clarke was slightly built, only 5 feet 8 1/2 inches tall and weighing only 132 pounds.

When the regulator dropped out of Clarke’s mouth for a second time Broady put it back in.7 At this point, the diving supervisor appeared on the catwalk and shouted to Broady to swim Clarke over to the recovery basket. The emergency had now become so acute that one of the rig’s crew, a man by the name of Nordhagen, dived into the freezing water to lend Broady assistance.8 On the way to the basket, Clarke lapsed into unconsciousness, and for a third time Broady put Clarke’s regulator back into his mouth.9 By the time Clarke was recovered onto the deck of the rig, he was dead from drowning.

1 Clarke FAI (Fatal Accident Inquiry Transcript), p. 95-96, 116.
2 Clarke FAI, p. 31, 34, 35, 65, 66, 110, 130.
3 Clarke FAI, p. 63.
4 Clarke FAI, p. 46.
5 Clarke FAI, p. 116-118.
6 Clarke FAI, p. 68.
7 Clarke FAI, p. 122.
8 Clarke FAI, p. 59.
9 Clarke FAI, p. 123, 125.