Tragic Deep Dive Incident: Jacob Leo Jang Chen’s Pursuit of Love and Adventure

LocationDiver Names
Cebu, PhilippinesJacob Leo Jang Chen (Jacob Yang Chen)

How far would you go to express your love for a loved one? For some, it may be matching tattoos, and for others, it may be expensive gifts. But Jacob Leo Jang Chen was willing to break the existing deep diving world record by going for an extreme dive in the air just to display a one-line sentence to celebrate his fifth wedding anniversary with his wife. However, this rare display of love led to a tragic ending.

Jacob Leo Jang Chen: A Man of Resilience and Pursuit

Jacob, whose English name is Jacob, had a previous name of Leo Jing until he decided to change it to Leo Yang Chen. He possessed a willpower that is particularly resilient and persistent, especially when it comes to pursuing his dreams. He tends to relentlessly pursue his aspirations. His roots are in Beijing, which is the capital city of China. Despite having a stable job in Beijing, he made the resolute decision to embark on the path of diving.

It all began in 2013 when he first enrolled in the introductory classes for World Underwater Discovery (WUD) at a nearby pool. From then on, he became captivated by the technical aspects of diving and began to travel to Cebu, Philippines for diving training on several occasions. Consequently, he made the courageous choice to relinquish his job in Beijing and permanently relocate his entire life to Cebu.

From Beijing to Cebu: A Life-Altering Decision

As time progressed, he acquired advanced knowledge of diving in various systems and locations, all the while remaining committed to teaching technical diving to his students, many of whom have emerged as top performers. He served as a technical diving instructor at WUD and is one of the few CCR Mod 5 divers and CCR technical diving instructors in China.

His personal life is intertwined with Cebu, where he met his beloved wife and established a small family of his own. Even though he had contemplated leaving Cebu, the onset of the pandemic forced him to stay for three years, during which he had yet to achieve his biggest dream of setting a new world record in the field of deep diving.

Jacob underwent years of consistent and rigorous training in deep diving, completing multiple trimix dives to a depth of 590 feet. These experiences allowed him to hone his fundamental skills, adapt his mental state effectively, and modify his diving plan based on his physical condition. As an instructor in technical diving for WUD and one of the few CCR Mod 5 divers and CCR technical diving instructors in China, he frequently guides students in undertaking trimix training at depths exceeding 328 feet.

Jacob believes that to break records, one must be aware of their endurance and boundaries while in the water. To accomplish an exceptionally deep dive, it’s crucial to first develop the capacity to dive for extended periods.

Consequently, he shifted his focus towards training utilizing thruster deep diving as his primary approach. Although a standard 328-foot dive can be accomplished in 60 minutes, he had to undertake a longer dive. This typically entails a long-term dive of over 500 minutes, such as a 60-minute bottom time at a depth of 328 feet.

Jacob conducted extensive research on diving theory and continually fine-tuned his plan before every dive. He meticulously evaluated all potential issues in line with his dive plan, even rehearsing diving steps and drills mentally before going to bed every night. Furthermore, he began preparing for the challenge by continually surpassing the limitations of air diving, attaining depths of 216 feet, 262 feet, 295 feet, 328 feet, and eventually 393 feet.

The Ambitious Goal: Breaking the World Record

Jacob’s relentless commitment and intensive training were all geared towards achieving his ultimate goal. However, the outbreak of the pandemic disrupted his plans, causing him to lose three years of progress. March 15th marked the highly anticipated day for the long-awaited dive that he had meticulously planned. His objective was to surprise his beloved wife while indulging in his most cherished activity. As it was their fifth wedding anniversary, he intended to unveil a message underwater that read, “Guo Lee June, this is the fifth anniversary for you, and the future can be expected.”

He aspired to accomplish this feat in a manner that was beyond the reach of ordinary individuals, even if it meant taking on one of the most grueling and hazardous approaches that would ultimately push him to his limits. He kept his dive plans to himself, not disclosing them to anyone.

The Tragic Dive on the Fifth Anniversary

The evening before March 15th was the long-awaited moment for him as the closed circuit rebreather finally arrived after four months of repair. Unexpectedly, on the morning of the 15th, he experienced a setback when his landlord’s maintenance personnel arrived, leading to a delay in the floor maintenance work, which was not completed until noon. Despite the delay, he hurried to the diving shop in the afternoon to prepare. Although he was running late, he didn’t hesitate as it was the fifth anniversary of his marriage to his beloved wife, which held significant meaning for him.

After 5 pm, he walked towards his dream with firm determination. His diving gear comprised a JJ CCR closed circuit rebreather, spare cylinders for air and pure oxygen, and Suex thrusters. His ultimate aim was to reach a depth of 426 feet, where the thrusters would propel him from the shallow waters to the maximum depth.

Following that, he would return to 315 feet to record the video for his wedding anniversary. He opted to dive solo, a practice he had been following for several years. However, his dive plan involved prolonged exposure to an oxygen partial pressure exceeding 1.6 bars, which could be hazardous. Unfortunately, since he was diving alone, there would be no assistance in case of an unforeseen circumstance.

He commenced his dive and quickly reached a depth of 262 feet in just 12 minutes. Despite the partial pressure of oxygen exceeding the safety limit of 1.6 bars, at the 16-minute mark, he surpassed the previous record by 393 feet and hesitated before deciding to continue. However, at 17 minutes, he started experiencing convulsions, and his watch became unstable. Despite this, he persisted towards his objective, and at around 19 minutes and 50 seconds, he reached the maximum depth. But the partial pressure of oxygen had reached a dangerous level of 2.5 bars.

He then turned around and began using the thrusters to ascend. Unfortunately, he gradually lost consciousness, and the thrusters began to drag him along the seabed. By 25 minutes, he was unconscious and at the exact depth at which he intended to capture a video for his wedding anniversary.

The thruster stopped, and everything went black. At 28 minutes, the camera he planned to use automatically shut off. At this point, he had passed away. At 50 minutes below the surface, his body began to inflate for about 10 seconds, and after three minutes, he resurfaced, floating lifelessly. The search crew located him in the darkness on the water surface, 50 minutes after the expected time for resurfacing.

Following his tragic passing, his diving plan was discovered in his logbook. Using the diving computer and CCR circuit camera, authorities were able to reconstruct the entire diving process. It was a sorrowful experience as he lost his life on a day celebrating love. Eventually, Jacob was laid to rest in Beijing on April 2nd.

Diving Dangers and Oxygen Toxicity

Undertaking deep air diving is filled with danger and unpredictability, as the high density of air in the depths of the ocean can lead to labored breathing and severe intoxication. This, in turn, can elevate carbon dioxide levels and impair judgment. Furthermore, there is a heightened risk of oxygen toxicity. This occurs when divers breathe in high concentrations of oxygen, and the symptoms can be severe. These symptoms can include limb convulsions, hyperventilation, difficulty maintaining a steady depth, headaches, and visual disturbances.

Jacob’s passing raises many questions, such as why an experienced diver would opt to embark on such a perilous dive alone. Having a team as a backup would have likely increased his chances of survival. Jacob’s decision to dive was primarily driven by his desire to push his boundaries and prepare for deep-sea diving, but it disregarded established safety protocols.

This was unusual for Jacob, as he had always followed all safety measures, such as managing equivalent intoxication depth, safe oxygen partial pressure management, and implementing the buddy system in his dive plan.

Jacob also made the risky choice of diving with thrusters instead of following the guidelines directly, which would have increased his chances of survival. However, he opted for this approach because it aligned with his personal goals. It is crucial to adhere to all diving guidelines, such as the buddy system, gas ratio, and volume management, that one has learned during training. When studying, working, or exploring by diving at the appropriate time with a positive mindset, one can minimize the associated risks.

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What was Jacob’s goal in his extreme dive?

Jacob’s goal was to display a one-line message underwater to celebrate his fifth wedding anniversary with his wife.

Where did Jacob undergo his diving training?

Jacob traveled to Cebu, Philippines for his diving training.

What caused Jacob’s tragic passing?

Jacob experienced convulsions and lost consciousness due to high levels of oxygen toxicity during his deep dive.

Why did Jacob choose to dive alone without a team?

Although diving with a team is safer, Jacob chose to dive alone to push his personal boundaries and pursue his own goals.

Rebecca Penrose
Rebecca, an experienced blogger, delves into the world of diving accidents, sharing insights, stories, and valuable lessons learned. Dive in and explore the depths of underwater safety.
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