Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: The charred remains of a scuba diver were discovered in a tree after a forest fire.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1996]
Origins: The tragic tale of the unfortunately scooped diver has been with us at least since 1987. Told at various times as having happened in California or France, to date there's not been so much as one charred scuba diver recovered from the aftermath of a forest fire in either location. (You'll also sometimes hear of a fisherman found in a tree, still determinedly clutching his fishing pole even in his extra-crispy state of final repose. None of them has been found, either.)
Which is not too surprising — the technology governing both bucket- and scoop-style water bombers rules out anyone being taken up with a load of water.
The intake of the largest helibucket is a one-foot ring. Although 10,000 gallons of water can be carried in the largest "bambi bucket," it all gets in there through that one-foot opening, an aperture far too minuscule for even a small person to be pulled through, let alone a typical-sized man dressed in scuba gear.
Bombardier water bombers typically have two intakes, but both are
Helitankers (choppers bearing a fixed tank) suck up water through a hose known as a "donkey dick." The opening to this hose is only a couple of inches in diameter.
Though it's impossible to be scooped or sucked up into a water bomber, there has been at least one injury to a swimmer resulting from coming too near to one while it was in the process of reloading. In 1998, a swimmer in Corsica was caught in eddies caused by a Canadair and thrown against a landing stage. She suffered a bruised leg.
It's been suggested the legend's origin lies in a collection of "how did this person die?" puzzles, this particular one presented as "The charred body of a scuba diver was found high in a tree after a forest fire — how did he get there?" Hypothetical stories have a way of being later remembered as real occurrences, and that likely could have happened here. (Visit the Ronald Opus page for an example of this sort of transmutation.)
I think the appeal of this legend lies in a combination of a few factors:
Barbara "all men are cremated equal" Mikkelson
Sightings: Look for mention of this urban legend early in the 1999 film Magnolia. Also, the 1998 Mordecai Richler novel Barney's Version and the 1989 Peter Mayle novel A Year in Provence make use of the legend. An episode of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation ("Scuba Doobie-Doo," original air date
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