Diver surfaces in Vernon with near-death tale

Chris Lemons will share his story at Last Breath event

Chris Lemons

A North Sea diver who cheated death after a catastrophic computer failure saw his boat drift away and his oxygen supply cut off, is bringing his story to town.

Chris Lemons lay almost 100 metres under the surface, resigned to ending his days in the dark water.

But the miracle of his colleagues’ superhuman efforts to save him, and his body lasting 35 minutes on a six-minute emergency air tank, saw him not only living to resume his diving job and marry his fiancée, but to suffer no ill effects of a lack of oxygen.

His extraordinary true story has been made into a documentary film, Last Breath.

Edinburgh-born Lemons, who lives near Mallaig in the Highlands, is a saturation diver. This is a specialised type of diving which reduces the risk of decompression sickness due to use of a mixture of oxygen and helium.

Lemons worked in the North Sea, diving from his ship the Bibby Topaz in a diving bell, repairing oil rig structures.

But what started as a normal day in September 2012 ended in a drama no-one thought Lemons would survive.

Sherman Dahl, co-founder of The Emily Dahl Foundation, was astounded by the experience that Lemons survived and reached out to him in Scotland, with the hope that he would consider coming to Vernon to speak.

“Within days of watching Last Breath I was doing zoom calls with Chris to learn more about him. He is an amazing chap, and his experience of near death has helped me with my experience of the death of my daughter Emily in 2019,” said Dahl. “My firm belief is that this incredible story will inspire many who attend this event and get to meet and listen to Chris in person.”

Last Breath features real and reconstructed footage from the North Sea situation that snapped Lemons’ umbilical cord – a tether back to the diving bell and the ship, which provided the divers with breathing gas, hot water to keep the suits warm in the three-degree sea as well as light and electricity.

“I realized very quickly that the end was nigh. I was on a countdown clock, and it was counting very fast,” said Lemons.

His colleagues thought they were recovering his body when they finally reached him.

Hauled him to the diving bell, his colleague gave him two breaths.

Miraculously – he spluttered to life.

Lemons will share his near death experience Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre prior to a wine and cheese reception. Laurie Thomas of Saskatoon, who lost her son in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash four years ago, will introduce Lemons.

The event will also feature a dance performance called Hope by Avery and Emi of Accentz Dance Studio and presentation of the Emily Dahl Foundation $5,000 scholarship to Novah Gardner by Sky Volleyball Club.

Destanne Norris’s painting, Above it all, will also be given as a door prize.

Limited tickets to the evening are available at ticketseller.ca.

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The painting Above it all, has been donated as a door prize during The Last Breath event. (Destanne Norris painting)

The painting Above it all, has been donated as a door prize during The Last Breath event. (Destanne Norris painting)

Chris Lemons shares his story in Vernon Nov. 29. (Chris Lemons photo)

Chris Lemons shares his story in Vernon Nov. 29. (Chris Lemons photo)

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