Recompression treatments during the recovery of TWA Flight 800

Undersea Hyperb Med. 1997 Winter;24(4):301-8.


After the crash of TWA flight 800, U.S. Navy (USN) and civilian divers recovered the aircraft and the victims' remains from 117 feet of sea water (fsw). Safety information was gathered from observations, interviews, and medical and diving records. Of 752 dives employing surface decompression using oxygen (SDO2), 10 divers required recompression treatments, mainly for type 2 decompression sickness (DCS). When using hot water heating, the DCS risk was high until the dive profiles were modified. Divers made nearly 4,000 no-decompression scuba dives. In eight scuba divers and one tender treated with recompression, the diagnoses included DCS (3), arterial gas embolism (AGE) (1), and vascular headache (2). All USN divers recovered fully. The experience is consistent with previous work suggesting an increase in DCS risk in warmer SDO2 divers. The USN SDO2 tables can be made safer by limiting bottom time and extending decompression. Even under stressful conditions, rapid ascents resulting in AGE are uncommon. Vascular headaches can mimic DCS by responding to oxygen.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Aviation
  • Decompression / methods*
  • Decompression Sickness / epidemiology
  • Decompression Sickness / therapy*
  • Diving* / adverse effects
  • Diving* / statistics & numerical data
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel
  • Naval Medicine
  • New York
  • Protective Clothing
  • Rescue Work*
  • Time Factors