Friend's death inspires invention of survival aid

The diving death of a Northland man inspired his friend to invent an inflatable life vest that has won international funding for its development.

Whangarei trainee doctor Jacob Beck-Jaffurs, 24, was spear-fishing with friends in Tauranga Harbour in March last year when he lost consciousness and sank to the ocean floor.

James McNab, an industrial design graduate and close friend of Mr Beck-Jaffurs, was inspired to create the inflatable aid.

"He was a medical student, so very aware of the risks of diving and took safety precautions, but on this day he pushed himself too hard and blacked out. Jacob is my inspiration for designing Revival Vest," Mr McNab said.

"If he had been wearing the Revival Vest, it might have been a different story."

The invention was entered in a design competition run by the British-based James Dyson Foundation, set up by bagless vacuum-cleaner inventor Sir James Dyson.

More than 500 projects from 18 countries were judged by an international panel of engineers, designers, academics and design media over three months. The top 15 entries were vetted by Sir James this month and the life vest was judged runner-up, securing $3900.

The Revival Vest uses smart fabric technology which triggers the vest to inflate based on changes in bodily signs.

It can detect changes in circumference and stretch around the chest. If a user blacks out and his or her body becomes limp, the vest is triggered to inflate and take the diver to the surface in an upright safety position, ready for resuscitation.

And while it was inspired by diving, the invention could be used for many water sports, including fishing, kite surfing and kayaking. Feedback had been good from local and international sports vest manufacturers, but Mr McNab said he had yet to find a company or person to help commercialise the design.

Mr McNab said throughout his research he was surprised at the number of water survival stories.

"Generally those that have gone into the water well prepared and equipped for their sport will come out of the water again, alive and ready for more."

- Northern Advocate

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