Dismembered in 0.1 Seconds — Byford Dolphin Accident Explained

Moment of death dissected

Col Jung
9 min readJul 22


Diver Truls Hellevik in May 1983, months before his extremely grisly death

In the wake of the 2023 Titan implosion, another disaster of a similar flavour has returned to the fore: the Byford Dolphin accident in 1983.

Regarded as an astonishingly brutal industrial incident, the lives of four saturation divers working on a Norwegian oil rig perished in a horrifying instant — their blood flash-boiled as the dissolved gases in their bodies and bloodstreams expanded 9-fold.

They exploded from the inside out — quite literally.

It gets worse.

One of the poor chaps — violently blasted through a small hatch — was gruesomely torn to pieces, spraying the deck with gory torrent.

British diver Roy Lucas and tender Billy Crammond both met a violent end on the Byford Dolphin

Like the five Titanic explorers, these five industrial workers from a generation earlier were victims of a catastrophic failure.

They were all very dead, very fast and in a very unpleasant manner.

Saturation Diving

In 1963, the first purpose-built drilling semi-submersible was launched.

These were essentially huge ships that could morph into oil and gas drilling platforms in the middle of the ocean. Ka-ching!

A semi-submersible oil rig like the Byford Dolphin

Our gripping tale centres on the Norwegian drilling rig Byford Dolphin — a state-of-the-art vessel built in 1974, with an impressive weight of 3,000 tonnes and a crew of 100. Armed with cutting-edge equipment, it was capable of drilling a staggering 6,100 meters (20,000 ft) deep.

The Byford boasted a small crew of four saturation divers that could perform maintenance work on the submersed part of the rig.

Operating at a depth of 80 metres (270 feet), these divers were subjected to 9 atmospheric pressure (atm) of ocean bearing down on them for weeks.