Diver's horrific injuries after being run over by boat: 'Lucky escape'

A diver is calling for rules in busy waterways to be changed after he almost lost his hand when he was run over by a boat while spearfishing in Sydney Harbour.

Alexey Barkhatov was diving with a friend at Middle Head on Sunday when he was struck by a passing boat, resulting in his hand being sliced open by the propellor.

"50cm to the left and this boat could have killed me and my diving buddy," he told Yahoo News Australia.

Alexey Barkhatov looking at the camera and smiling thumbs up showing lacerations and thick stitches on his hand due to the accident in Sydney Harbour..
Alexey Barkhatov is lucky to still have his hand after colliding with a boat's propellor in Sydney Harbour. Source: Supplied

"I was with my diving buddy, really shallow with two floats, when he appeared out of nowhere, speeding.

"I tried to defend my hand with the gun and was able to dive quickly but not as deep as I hoped."

Divers had visible floats to warn boats

Mr Barkhatov said he regularly dives and was spearfishing when the accident happened.

"We have two very visible floats," he explained. "I have a big red Wettie Float Boat. My buddy had a big blue float and we tangle them together, just to be seen from anywhere."

Mr Barkhatov and his friend had been diving near Middle Head for a few hours when they spotted some kingfish. He was getting ready to shoot when he heard a sudden noise, causing him to quickly turn around.

Alexey  Barkhatov 's hand and lower arm with lacerations and thick stitches  due to the accident.
Mr Barkhatov was in surgery for three hours. Source: Supplied

"There were a few boats not far from me, maybe 100 metres away," he explained. "[But] I heard this noise, I was afraid that it could be a boat so I tried to dive quickly and defended myself with a gun in my hand."

"It probably saved my life," he admitted. "Because yes, it was a boat and it hit me straight away."

The propellor hit the edge of Mr Barkhatov's hand, slicing through it. Coming to the surface covered in blood he got the boat driver's attention who helped him on board.

"We used his dog's leash to stop the bleeding," he recalled. "We got my diving buddy, called the maritime police and he gave us a lift to the wharf where an ambulance was waiting."

Calling for speed limits in high traffic NSW waterways

Three hours of surgery later, doctors were thankfully able to save Mr Barkhatov's hand.

"I'm very lucky," he said. "That's why now I'm trying to find a way how to use my story to prevent such accidents in the future."

According to the NSW government website, most waterways in the state have no speed limit.

"All vessels must travel at a safe speed at all times," the website reads.

Palm of Alexey Barkhatov's hand after the accident and surgery showing thick sticthes.
Mr Barkhatov is recovering well after his surgery. Source: Supplied

"A safe speed gives you enough time to stop, or turn your vessel to avoid any sudden danger, such as a collision, injury to people, or damage to things."

'Humans in boats more dangerous than sharks'

Mr Barkhatov is calling for speed limits in waterways to be enforced more, and for more restrictions for boats near swimmers and divers to be put in place.

"Maybe some signal buoys near the head or the beaches, just to show the boats where swimmers can be or spearfisherman or paddle boats," he suggested. "It could save lives."

"As a spear fisherman you should always look around, and it's not sharks [to look out for], if it's humans, it's boats, which are much more dangerous than nature.

Mr Barkhatov urges everyone in the water to pay close attention.

"It's important to learn how to be careful in the water, [but also] how to pay attention to surroundings."

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