A ‘heroic’ experienced diver sacrificed his own life trying to save another diver, who died later, according to a friend who witnessed the tragedy.

Krzysztof Białecki, 48, died at Mater Dei Hospital hours after the incident off Żonqor, Marsascala on Saturday

“He was helping another diver. We don’t know what happened exactly. But Krzy knew that he was sacrificing one hour of decompression.

"It was his decision. He knew what he was sacrificing,” said Joanna Wyrebek, a diving instructor who was with the group of Polish divers when the accident happened on Saturday morning.

The other diver, Dominic Dubaj died before he reached the hospital.

Both men were Polish but lived in the UK and had travelled to Malta last week with the group Diving Explorers. Białecki, a diver with 20 years’ experience, had co-founded the group and was given the nickname ‘tato’, which means dad in Polish, because of his leadership and experience.

The group was exploring the Le Polynesien, a World War I wreck at a depth of 50 metres when the accident happened.

'It was clear that something was wrong'

Wyrebek told Times of Malta she was taking some footage of the dive when, at some point, her camera stopped working and the current was strong, so she resurfaced.

“As soon as I got on the boat the two divers popped to the surface,” she said. They were both conscious at that point but it was clear that something was wrong.

“Tato started saying: chamber, chamber. He then went back into the water to start his decompression. But the pain started. He did not manage to decompress,” she added.

The diver “sacrificed himself and knew the risks” when he went to help his fellow diver in trouble, Wyrebek said. The other divers helped him back onto the boat and, after some time, the Armed Forces of Malta arrived to assist the pair.

'He is our hero, a legend'

Dubaj died before getting to Mater Dei Hospital while Bialecki was placed in the decompression chamber but died later that day.

“We are absolutely devastated. He is our hero. Our legend. We want to carry him in our hearts and minds. We can’t forget him. He was one of a kind. A good person with a big heart,” she said.

“I called him tato, which means ‘dad’. He was my diving dad. He had a day job but diving was his passion – in capital letters,” she said.

Wyrebek, a diving instructor, knew Białecki for 10 years and said his group was the largest Polish diving club in the UK. She said members of the club often travelled to Malta for dives.

A tribute on Divers.24 said Białecki enjoyed enormous respect and recognition in the diving community and his passion attracted many enthusiasts of the sport.

“Krzysztof was not only a leader but also a mentor for many young divers. His contribution to popularising diving among Poles living in Great Britain was invaluable,” it said.

The tragic accident came a week after the AFM rescued two divers after finding themselves in difficulties off the same area in Marsascala. 

Back in May, a 44-year-old Swiss woman died while diving in Dwejra, Gozo.

In March, a 45-year-old man from the Netherlands died after he and a group of 17 other divers encountered difficulties and had to be rescued from the Rożi dive site in Ċirkewwa.

What is decompression?

Decompression refers to the process of gradually allowing the body to eliminate excess gas accumulated during a dive. During dives, divers absorb nitrogen from the air they breathe, which dissolves into the bloodstream.

If divers ascend rapidly to the surface without making the necessary stops, nitrogen could form bubbles in the body, leading to decompression sickness. This includes symptoms such as joint pain, difficulty breathing, chest pain and other serious neurological issues.

To prevent this, divers follow specific decompression rules and make safety stops during their ascent, allowing the body to gradually eliminate the accumulated nitrogen.

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