CALIFORNIA: Death in the Tank

In the flat, long light of a late afternoon last week, the oil exploration boat Submarex rode gently in the Pacific swell near the Southern California town of Redondo Beach. Below the water's surface. Professional Diver Eldon W. Smith, 31, began his ascent. Suddenly, the men on the Submarex intercom heard a scream tear from inside Smith's helmet: the diver, apparently rising too fast, was struck with caisson disease—knifelike jabs of pain caused by the accumulation of deadly nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream—the "bends."

Carefully, the seamen raised the pain-racked Smith to the surface, rushed him to the recompression chamber...

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