Tributes have been paid to Polish cave diver Artur Kozlowski (34), whose body was found underground during an extensive search in south Galway yesterday.
The 22-hour search for the highly experienced cave diver was stood down shortly before 7pm last night, when a colleague located his body some 800m into the Pollonora borehole at a depth of about 52 metres.
Mr Kozlowski, who held several records including one for the longest and deepest cave traverse in Ireland and Britain, had been reported missing at 9pm on Monday night when he failed to return from a solo dive in the Kiltartan system north of Gort in the county.
|Artur Kozlowski (34) who died during a cave dive in Ireland|
The quantity surveyor and cave diving trainer had been continuing his exploration of a new shaft in the karst limestone boreholes.
Irish Cave Rescue Organisation warden Conor McGrath said it was too early to speculate on the cause of his death, as he had been found with his gear intact at the extreme end of the cave.
Mr Kozlowski’s friend and diving colleague Jim Warny had undertaken the first of three attempts over the last 22 hours to locate him, by following a lifeline which Mr Kozlowski had set from the borehole entrance.
The Pole had been using mixed oxygen when he set off at 3pm on Monday, and had sufficient gas for six hours.
Mr Kozlowski had deposited “stage” oxygen bottles en route, in case of an emergency and had made arrangements with two colleagues to raise the alarm if he had not returned by 9pm.
Two more dives were undertaken yesterday, co-ordinated by the Irish cave rescue group in co-operation with Gort gardaí and it was during the second of these that his body was found.
Describing the longest traverse which he undertook with Mr Warny a year ago in south Galway, Mr Kozlowski said that it could often be very difficult to find subterranean routes in visibility of less than half a metre.
“We found it was useful to dive during rainy periods so we could use underground rivers to guide us,”he said, explaining that cave divers had to be “totally self-sufficient” due to the difficulties involved in rescue.
Irish Farmers Association south Galway official Michael Kelly paid tribute to Mr Kozlowski’s role in assisting and informing flood victims during the heavy rains of 2009-2010.
Kiltartan resident David Murray also said that the Polish adventurer, who was “charismatic” and with a passion for his sport, had shared his knowledge of the extensive limestone cave systems with the community.
He had stayed regularly with the Nolan family in Kiltartan, and arrived there last weekend to undertake his last dive.
There had been hopes earlier yesterday that Mr Kozlowski might have found an air pocket, and would wait it out until supplementary oxygen could be brought to him.
“He would have known exactly what to do, as he had several close shaves before – but it was what he lived for,” one close friend said.