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Record deep-water dive attempt proves fatal for Brooklyn native

diving-articleLargeLONG ISLAND, Bahamas — As Nicholas Mevoli lay on his back, floating in the azure sea, attempting to relax, his exhales were audible. The countdown had begun, and he prepared to dive into Dean’s Blue Hole, hoping to reach 72 meters on a single inhalation, with no fins or supplemental oxygen. He began sipping the air, attempting to pack as much oxygen in his lungs as possible.

Officials for Vertical Blue, a championship event in the sport of free diving, monitored and announced Mevoli’s progress by sonar, and all was progressing smoothly until he had trouble at 68 meters, or about 223 feet, and seemed to turn back. Yet instead of heading to the surface, he decided to dive down again in an attempt to reach his goal and achieve his second American record. A few of his fellow athletes squirmed with discomfort, recognizing that his decision was a dangerous one.

“Diving to that depth with no fins, that’s a hard, physical dive,” said Mike Board, the British record-holder. “I was thinking, O.K., he’s going to have a hard time getting up.”

Still, Mevoli shot to the surface under his own power, after a dive of 3 minutes 38 seconds. That’s when the scene turned nightmarish.

Mevoli ripped off his goggles, flashed the O.K. sign and attempted to complete the surface protocol that would make his attempt official by saying, “I am O.K.” But he wasn’t. His words were garbled, his eyes wide and blank. He tipped backward into the ocean and lost consciousness, which, while alarming, is not unheard-of in a sport in which almost all the top athletes have lost consciousness at one time or another, though usually for only a few seconds. Mevoli was not so fortunate.


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