Sep 19 2015
by Meg Farris / WWLTV Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS – Years ago, a commercial diver from Terrytown spent nearly a half hour at the bottom of the Mississippi River with no oxygen. Today, he lives a normal life with no health problems.
Now a local doctor says the mistake that saved his life and prevented brain damage could also be used to save the lives of people who have cardiac arrest and keep them free of brain damage as well.
It was on a very hot August day in 1983, when Ray Parrish, a 35-year-old commercial diver, went to work in the middle of the muddy Mississippi River around Destrehan. His mission: go down to the bottom of the river, nearly 90 feet down in pure darkness, to find and hook up cables to a new tug that sank on her maiden voyage. On top was a barge and crane waiting to pull her up.
“This boat had a whole lot of sand and mud around it and it was too much to get anything underneath the bow,” said Parrish, who now lives in California. So Parrish used an air lift, a huge vacuum hose suspended from a crane, to suck up silt and sand and mud with a tremendous force to clear the tug.
Then something went terribly wrong. “Something was killing me,” Parrish said. He couldn’t take in any air. “I wasn’t breathing. I wasn’t even trying to breath,” he said. The large hose came in contact with the top of his helmet. He was being sucked up by a couple thousand pounds of pressure. He then realized he had to act then or die 89 feet below the city.