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27.11.2004 05:21
Kategorie: News
`He`ll dive 271m to bring back my boy`
November 26, 2004

By Jonathan Ancer

"Dave Shaw looked me straight in the eye and made me a very big promise. He said, `I will fetch your son.` I believe he is the man who will go down 271 metres underwater to bring back my boy," Theo Dreyer says.

For the past 10 years, the body of 20-year-old Deon Dreyer has been lying at the bottom of Bushman`s Cave near Danielskuil in the Northern Cape in silt 271m underwater.

On October 28, Shaw, an Australian pilot and deep-water diver, reached 270m in setting a world record for a diver using rebreather apparatus (where the gases are recycled). That is when he spied a skeleton in a wetsuit.

"As I swept left with my light, I saw a body as plain as day," Shaw wrote in his dive report. "He was lying on his back, arms in the air and legs outstretched."

There was a chain around the skeleton`s wrist. His diving mask and fins were still in place.

Shaw attached his guideline to the diver`s remains and terminated the dive. The remains are believed to belong to Deon, who disappeared on December 17, 1994.

In Cape Town, Inspector Theo van Heerden of the police`s water wing is carefully planning the recovery of the body on January 6.

Although dental records will determine if the body is Deon`s, Theo and Marie Dreyer believe their son has finally been found after 10 years of hell. Now his parents can begin healing.

"After 10 years ... we finally know," Theo sighs. "We know it`s him because there is only one body down there."

Deon was the second diver to lose his life at Bushman`s Cave. Eight months earlier, Eben Benade blacked out at 60m. His buddy partner grabbed him and brought him to the surface but it was too late.

According to Theo, Deon, who raced modified cars, hunted, dived and was a whiz with electronics, had a passion for living on the edge.

"Deon began scuba-diving when he was 17 and had clocked about 200 dives. He did everything to the fullest extent. For him, diving became more than just watching fish. He got into technical (deep-water) diving because the challenge was bigger."

Theo says Deon may have been an adrenaline junkie but he was not reckless.

"He planned his dives meticulously. Before every dive he prayed."
On December 17, 1994, Deon was part of a support crew for SA Cave Diving Association divers whose target was to dive 150m.

A day before the planned dive, the team went on a "bounce", which is dive-speak for a reconnaissance. On their way back up, at 60m, Deon gave the three-finger diver`s hand signal to his buddy, indicating that everything was OK.

In the accident report team leader Dietloff Giliomee wrote: "Then at 50m we noticed a light below us. An eternity of confusion followed which could have lasted seconds. It was only when John-Wesley (Franklin) signed a cut-throat gesture that I realised what was happening. I started to descend for a chase. Back at 50m I estimated that Deon was at least another 40m below us, and his fading light indicated that he was dropping fast. I decided it was a suicide chase and we abandoned the effort."

Theo believes his son had deep-water blackout, a rare event when a diver passes out because of the effect of gases under pressure at extreme depth on the body.

"A light switch just went off and that is it, it`s goodbye. He sank fast. The divers just saw the beam of his torch," Theo says.




For 10 years, the Dreyers have spent thousands of rand on searches to recover the body. Finally, Shaw`s grisly find has allowed them to have some closure.

"We had begun to accept that his body would never be found, but now there is a reference to the location of my child," Theo explains.

"The wound has always been there but news that his body has been found has pulled the scab off the wound. As long as there is a scab, there cannot be healing. Now, at least, we can begin to heal."

At the couple`s home on the outskirts of Vereeniging, Marie sits with an album of Deon. She opens the album to a photo of Deon with his girlfriend Belinda taken just before he went off to
Bushman`s Cave.

Deon and Belinda, his girlfriend of three years, had planned to get engaged.

Marie is recovering from a bout of chicken pox and
shingles, which a doctor told her was brought on from news that her son`s body had been found.

"I became hysterical when I received the call. During the 10 years, I nearly went insane thinking about what had become of Deon. In the back of my mind I knew but because we didn`t have the body we couldn`t really get to grips with the death.

"Without a body there is always hope. However small, however irrational - there is always something at the back of your mind that says maybe, just maybe ... maybe."

On the first anniversary since Deon`s disappearance the Dreyers returned to Bushman`s Cave.

"I wanted to give Deon a present. I decided to plant a tree. We go to the cave three or four times a year. We sit at the hole, where it`s quiet, we put flowers and a wreath," she says. "It has been really tough finding out but it has also brought closure."

News of the body has also brought closure for police diver Van Heerden.

"I`ve been diving for 35 years and I was the first diver to go down Bushman`s Cave. During my years, I have taken out plenty of bodies found in dams, seas and rivers but this has always bothered me.

"Now, we can close the book. Now Deon`s parents can mourn their son properly and move on."

Van Heerden is going through tables, designing a block-and-tackle and swivel equipment, and working out the recovery dive.

According to Van Heerden, it will take Shaw 15 minutes to get to the bottom with three minutes bottom time to recover the body and then nine hours and 40 minutes to resurface.

Derek Hughes, a deep-water cave diver who will help
co-ordinate the recovery, said they dive for the opposite reason that people climb Everest.

"We don`t dive for what is there, we dive for what is not there. The sea is a vibrant world of colour and life but in a cave it`s dark and silent.

"It`s a very Zen experience. You float in velvet blackness and the only sound you hear is your breathing. It`s the closest thing one can get to complete nothingness; it`s unbelievable."

Theo says that while his son had a lot of living to do, in his 20 years Deon lived more than most people.

"There are lots of people breathing but not many people are actually living. Many people think that living is sitting at home, watching the Bold and the Beautiful. If you push yourself to the limits, you expose yourself to risks. Skydiving was next on his list.

http://www.capeargus.co.za/index.php?fSectionId=49&fArticleId=2321812