Medical Examiner: Drowning listed as cause of death for Lake Norman diver

A local firefighter who lost his life trying to recover the body of a missing swimmer on Lake Norman died from drowning, according to the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. 

Authorities said Bradley Long, 28, drowned due to an arterial gas embolism while SCUBA diving. 

Major findings at autopsy included heavy lungs, fluid in the sphenoid sinus, an enlarged heart, and air within the right pleural space and heart. 

Long was a Newton firefighter and was working on a search and rescue mission through Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire-Rescue to retrieve a body of a person who drowned in the lake. 

RELATED: Community bids a final farewell to fallen hero Captain Bradley Long

According to witness statements and those on scene, Long and his dive buddy reached the rescue basket at the depth of around 80 feet. An air check with surface personnel with completed 14 minutes into the dive, and divers were told to begin a controlled ascent. 

Per dive computer interrogation, Long's ascent was performed with increasing speed from 68 feet and without performing required safety stops. 

According to a witness statement, Long got to the 20 foot safety stop and motioned to another diver that he was out of air, removed his mask, removed the mask of his dive buddy and panicked. 

The dive buddy surfaced from the water and called for help. 

MORE: Authorities: 2 firefighters doing well after deadly accident on Lake Norman

Per Air Hogs Scuba interrogation of the dive computer, Long was breathing at a rapid rate throughout the dive, causing rapid gas consumption, descended to the maximal depth of 81 feet, and did not return to the surface when he was low on air. 

The review of the dive equipment showed the gas cylinder was essentially empty. According to the report, the backup gas sources were unused. 

 

 

 

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