(NEW YORK) — A New York City man who had reached the pinnacle of free-diving has died after trying to break another record in the extreme sport.
Nick Mevoli, 32, of Brooklyn, worked by day as a prop master on movie and TV sets, but beneath the waves, he was the star.
“When it came to being in the water,” he said in a YouTube video dated August 2013, “that was where I really shined.”
Though free-diving has been glamorized in movies such as The Big Blue and has become increasingly popular, it’s also considered one of the deadliest extreme sports. Divers often have to be helped to the surface and revived because diving to such depths squeezes the lungs. At 300 feet, the lungs go from the size of a football to the size of a tennis ball.
In May, Mevoli plunged 328 feet on a single gulp of air and become the first American to break the 100-meter mark. He’d been competing since last year.
On Sunday, at the idyllic Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas — considered the deepest blue hole on Earth at nearly 640 feet — Mevoli was attempting another mark at the International Free Diving Competition.
He was trying to dive nearly 230 feet — deeper than the Statue of Liberty is tall — and this time without fins.
As he’d done many times before, Mevoli tipped forward and propelled past the 200-foot mark. Around 223 feet, however, he seemed to hit trouble and appeared to turn back. But he dived again into the darkness to reach his goal.
After three and a half minutes, he breached the surface of the water — eyes bulging, distress evident. Seconds later, he lost consciousness and never regained it, authorities said.
“Nick appears to have suffered from a depth-related injury to his lungs,” the Switzerland-based Association Internationale pour le Développement de l’Apnée, a worldwide federation for breath-holding diving, said in a statement Sunday.
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