Billy Deans

Billy Deans is best remembered in the technical diving community for popularising the use of trimix as a breathing gas for deep diving.

Deans was a hugely accomplished diver in his own right.  Kevin McMurray, in his book, Deep Descent, refers to Billy Deans as being "the world's best diver".  Amongst his other achievements, he was a member of the board of directors of the International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers (IANTD), and a technical diving instructor for the US Government (which included teaching not only the United States Army Corps of Engineers, but also special forces divers for the United States Army and the United States Navy).

He took part in a number of high profile wreck diving expeditions, including to the USS Monitor.  He also has a small footnote in diving history, when he was the first diver to reach John Ormsby when the latter died in a diving accident on the SS Andrea Doria.

But it was for his work with trimix that engendered Billy Deans' legacy.  Initially breathing helium mixes was greeted with scepticism, and denigrated with the term "voodoo gas".  But over time the influence spread, first in the cave diving communities in Florida, where Deans had his shop in Key West, and then latterly to the wreck diving communities of the North Atlantic.  Soon people came to joke that Billy Deans had stood on the deck of the USS Wilkes-Barre (where he conducted trimix training dives) more often than any of its crew.

In 1998 Billy Deans shocked the diving world by suddenly retiring from diving.  Diving is not a competitive sport, but like many stars in other sports, Deans knew how to go out on top.