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Dive instructor dies after being stung

Date Posted: 2010-08-12

A scuba diving instructor giving lessons to tourists at Koki Beach in Nago City died after being stung by a venomous stonefish.

The 58-year-old Okinawan dive instructor was standing barefoot in shallow water, conducting a lesson, when he suddenly flinched and said “Ouch. I’ve been stung by a stone fish. Please help me.” He was stung in the foot by something sharp, and officials later said it was a devil stinger fish, one of several varieties of the deadly fish.

The man was administered emergency treatment but went into shock and unconscious before being taken to a hospital. Some 1˝ hours later, a doctor said “we couldn’t do anything. He is dead.” Police investigators say the dive instructor was standing in only 50cm of shallow water.

A Prefecture Hygiene Environment agency says there are four poisonous stone fish in Okinawa waters, most living in shallow waters but occasionally venturing into open waters. There were 16 cases of stone fish stings last year, but no deaths. The last deadly sting incident was in 1983, when one person was bitten but drowned because he had no dive partner.

Okinawa officials say divers can easily protect themselves from stone fish by always wearing marine boots that are made with a felt bottom. If a diver is stung, “Don’t be flustered; just calm down and take out the spines from the injured extremity, put a 40C-45C hot water bag on the injury and go to a hospital.”

The incident last Thursday brought concerns from other dive instructors that divers should be careful of the reef stonefish, which are common in local waters. The stonefish, along with the lion fish, are considered the most deadly fish in area waters. Stonefish, which grow to an average 35cm in length, have 13 spines along their back that release a toxin capable of causing paralysis, pain, unconsciousness and death.

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