Brooklyn resident Nicholas Mevoli was new to the sport of free diving, which involves swimming as deep as possible on a single breath of air, without the aid of an oxygen tank. But he'd already made a mark in the sport by diving to 100 meters (325 feet) in May of this year, becoming the first American to break that barrier unassisted, according to news reports.
On Sunday (Nov. 17), Mevoli participated in a free-diving competition called Vertical Blue, in the Bahamas. While diving to a depth of nearly 70 meters (230 feet), he ran into trouble, and appeared to turn back before reaching his goal and resurfacing, 3 minutes 38 seconds after first submerging, the New York Times reported.
Mevoli passed out seconds later, and blood poured from his mouth. Medical staff attempted to revive him, and rushed him to a nearby hospital, to no avail. He was declared dead shortly thereafter. According to AIDA, a worldwide federation for breath-holding diving, Mevoli "appears to have suffered from a depth-related injury to his lungs," likely filling his lungs with fluid and leading to suffocation. He is the first athlete to die in an international free-diving competition in the 21 years it has existed as an official sport, the Times reported.