Doctor fights for life

A CLAYDON doctor is fighting for his life after a diving accident in a Leicestershire quarry.Dr Paul Thomas has still not regained consciousness after the incident at Stoney Cove diving centre just over a week ago .

A CLAYDON doctor is fighting for his life after a diving accident in a Leicestershire quarry.

Dr Paul Thomas has still not regained consciousness after the incident at Stoney Cove diving centre just over a week ago .

He was said to be in a critical condition on a life support machine at the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Dr Thomas' patients at the Gipping Valley Practice, in Barham, have been told he is ill in hospital and will not be returning to work just yet although the practice will continue to run as normal. Dr Thomas' wife, Angela, practice manager at the single-doctor surgery, has been at his bedside since the incident.


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She is anxious that patients should not be rushed into registering elsewhere until more is known about his condition.

The doctor, who is in his 50s, has been described by colleagues as a very keen and experienced diver. He had taken up the hobby again following a shore dive in Cornwall three years ago.

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He was diving independently at the centre with a buddy, also from the Ipswich area, on the afternoon of November 7, when he got into difficulty underwater. They were believed to have been in around 20m of water at a popular site in the lake between the helicopter and the tug.

His friend surfaced alone, raising the alarm and an underwater search and rescue team was launched immediately from Stoney Cove. Dr Thomas was found quickly and brought to the surface and was given mouth to mouth. Resuscitation was continued by the emergency services.

The dive centre at Stoney Stanton, near Hinckley in Leicestershire, is one of the most dived sites in the UK. It is the largest commercially run inland dive site in the UK with depths of 36m. Monster pikes with razor sharp teeth glide around sunken wrecks of a helicopter, a plane and a British waterways tug, the Stanegarth.

The site is favoured by divers because it is safer – away from the problems of coastal tides and adverse weather conditions. It is described by diving club websites as ideal for basic training.

It was the scene of an earlier tragedy in April this year, however, when freelance photographer John Shenton, 55, from Hertfordshire, drowned whilst diving near the helicopter. A 34-year-old woman from Potters Bar also died after diving at the Cove in March last year.

Margaret Baldwin, site operations manager for Stoney Cove, said: "We have around 60,000 divers a year, most of whom will do two or three dives per visit very safely and happily but from time to time there is a small number of incidents. Those of us responsible for the management of Stoney Cove are very careful to ensure the divers have all the information they need for safe dive planning."

She added that Mr Thomas and his buddy were diving independently, for pleasure and were not under instruction from Stoney Cove or any other party.

Dr Mike Debenham, a private GP from Hintlesham, and friend and colleague of Dr Thomas, who has been in close contact with Angela over the past week, said his friend was a very "correct" diver.

He added: "I was in intensive care six years ago and he spent hours looking after my wife who was 38-weeks pregnant. I owe him a huge debt. I am desperately upset about this.

"Paul was passionate about his diving, he was always going off diving in the North Sea. People enjoyed diving with him because he was very safe."

A police inquiry into the incident is underway.

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