REPORT: Search and Recovery in an Underwater Cave in Siargao Island

IMG_20170501_021702_585

The recovered body inside a body bag at the foot of the spring.

SIARGAO ISLAND- In the late afternoon of April 29, 2017, the body of a 40 year old male was found deep inside an underwater cave of a spring in Brgy Esperanza, Del Carmen municipality of Siargao island.

The deceased, Mr. Jose Borja, a local farmer, was believed to have suffered a seizure while doing laundry in the Can-agong-agong Spring in Dringcamdors Village. (9° 51.889’N, 126° 1.082’E)

Cave divers Jake Miranda and John Rey Pingkian of Surigao City recovered the body from a crevice inside the cave.

Barangay chairman Fred Galolo said that Borja was reported missing on April 19th and was last seen in the spring attending to his laundry. They immediately conducted a search and suspected that Borja drowned in the spring. Hookah divers using compressor-fed air tried to dive the spring but failed to penetrate beyond the entrance.

Del Carmen Mayor JR Coro requested the assistance of Miranda, a member of the Filipino Cave Divers and a dive supervisor of Emergency Response Diving International, an international dive agency specialized in public safety diving and body recoveries.

IMG_20170501_021812_989

Cave Diver tender John Rey Pingkian prepares while Brgy. Captain Fred Golo and PNP personnel help secure the area.

The dive team arrived on site at 2 PM, and immediately set up all the gears. The underwater operation commenced at 3:43 PM. There was zero visibility throughout the search and the diver had to grope for the cave walls to avoid getting disoriented.

The dive was made even more challenging because it was a foray into an unexplored cave which was also heavily-silted. The second diver acted as surface tender and standby diver. At 4:08 PM, the body was finally located at a depth of 4 meters during the ascent phase of the dive.

At 4:13 PM, the diver surfaced with the body of Borja which was in an advanced state of decomposition. It was then placed in a body bag away from public view. The whole underwater search took 30 minutes and went as deep as 15 meters. After procedural turnovers using the chain of custody, the area was secured and the cordon was removed. The activity was terminated at 6 pm.

IMG_20170501_022025_101

The dive profile showing in yellow the phase of the dive when the body was located.

The municipal, barangay government units and local police station provided excellent support at topside which lessened the risk and made the recovery successful without incident. Protocols like cordoning the area, pre and post-briefings, and safety procedures concerning contaminated water were practised throughout the activity.

The volunteer recovery team was well supported by other parties. Shore It Up Foundation of Metro Pacific Group lent Ocean Reef full-face masks and an M105 and GSM DC underwater communications setup, while Ravenworks also lent a Viking HAZMAT drysuit, an OTS full-face mask and a net body bag.

Siargao island, a well-known tourist destination famous for its surfing, is a limestone-rich flatland with numerous springs and waterways in the middle of lush forests and mangroves. Locally known as bito or busay, most of these springs serve as laundry areas. The springs with the purest waters are the main sources of drinking water for the remote villages.

received_10154827739457946

Jake Miranda in full haz-mat suit similar to the equipment used during the recovery operation. He is an ERDI Dive Supervisor and a TDI ITC Instructor.  File photo.

Report by:

Jake Miranda

Jake Miranda

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s