New York man dies during freedive competition in Bahamas

Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:13am EST
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By Karen Brooks

(Reuters) - A record-holding diver died during a freediving competition in the Bahamas on Sunday in what officials said was the first fatality in the sport's 21 years of official competition.

American diver Nicholas Mevoli of Brooklyn was conscious when he surfaced from his 72-meter (236-foot) dive, done without oxygen or fins, but blacked out about 30 seconds later, according to a statement by Vertical Blue, which runs freediving events in the Bahamas.

"At the moment we are all extremely shocked and saddened and trying to establish what happened," reads the Vertical Blue statement posted on Facebook. "Competition freediving has an enviable safety record but the sport can never be risk-free, something understood by all freedivers."

His death appears connected to lung damage suffered during the dive and marks the first time a competitor has died during an officially sanctioned event in 21 years of more than 35,000 competitive dives, according to the Switzerland-based Association Internationale pour le Développement de l'Apnée, which governs breath-hold diving events worldwide.

Freediving is an extreme sport in which divers attempt to reach those depths without oxygen assistance, and in some cases with no fins or other aid.

AIDA does not keep statistics on amateur breath-holding dive incidents, but a report by the Divers Alert Network in the United States said some 34 fatalities were reported in 2006, the most recent study that was immediately available. The DAN report of breath-hold dive related fatalities includes people who were snorkeling, spearfishing, collecting and freediving.

The sport was rocked in 2002, when Audrey Mestre, one of the world's top female freedivers, perished off the coast of the Dominican Republican during a record attempt widely criticized for planning errors. Her death sparked new safety regulations in the sport.

Her husband, world-famous freediver Francisco Ferreras, quit after her death but recently announced plans to return to the sport.   Continued...