After attempting to set the American free-diving record, Nicholas Mevoli, a 32-year-old free-diver from Brooklyn, has died.
His attempt was staged in Dean’s Blue Hole, the world’s deepest known underwater sinkhole. It drops into the ocean floor to a depth of about 200 meters, around 650 feet, and is a playground for the world’s best divers.
At just after noon on Sunday, Mevoli dove down into the hole, trying to reach 72 meters (236 feet), on a single breath with no fins. According to officials from Vertical Blue, a championship event in free diving, Mevoli reached 68 meters (223 feet) before running into trouble. Vertical Blue monitors divers’ progress using sonar, which reported that the diver seemed to turn back, then had second thoughts and decided to dive deeper again.
After a dive of 3 minutes and 38 seconds, Mevoli broke the surface under his own power, flashed the O.K. sign – which used to make his attempt official – and tipped backward into ocean, losing consciousness.
Safety divers lifted him onto a platform, where Barbara Jeschke, the physician at the event, went to work. According to reports, one of the safety divers at the scene shouted, “there’s a problem with his lung,” before turning the diver onto his side. Blood poured from his mouth and onto the platform.
After 15 minutes, there was no pulse. Medical workers removed his wetsuit and began CPR and adrenaline shots. They worked for 90 minutes, but couldn’t revive him. He was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:44 p.m. According to the New York Times, he had suffered pulmonary edema, and 800 cubic centimeters of fluid was removed from his lungs.
In May, Nicholas Mevoli was the first American diver to break the 100-meter threshold. He was a newcomer to the competitive free-diving circuit, only starting last year. He won the Cayman Islands event, the Deja Blue, then won it again this year in Curaçao, and took third in the world championships in Greece last September.
Mevoli arrived in the Bahamas for the Vertical Blue event with his eye on the Free Immersion category title. He attempted to reach 96 meters (315 feet) on Friday and turned back at 80 (260 feet). Rescue divers assisted him to the surface, where blood dripped from his mouth, which was caused by an upper respiratory squeeze – capillaries bursting from pressure at depth.
Nicholas Mevoli was a prop man in New York film and television, and traveled the world following his passion for free-diving.