On November 17, 2013, Nicholas Mevoli tragically died after completing a freedive to a depth of 72 meters at a Verticle Blue competition event at Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas. His death occurred on a dive during which he turned back to the surface to ascend before reaching his target depth, and then, changing his mind, turned back down to complete his planned dive.
Reports from eye-witnesses indicate he suffered a lung squeeze during this last dive. Significantly, Mevoli’s death was the first fatality to occur at an AIDA International sanctioned event in the organization’s 21-year history.
AIDA International is a non profit organization founded in 1992 to further the development of freediving, or apnea. Over the years, AIDA International has defined disciplines in freediving and recognizes and authenticate world records achieved in these disciplines.
In the aftermath of Mevoli’s death, AIDA’s Assembly members took a step back to reexamine the sport, not wanting to accept death as an inherent risk in freedive competitions. A Safety Proposal was put forth to address concerns regarding safety for freedive athletes. It includes two important changes that are a direct result of the death of Nicholas Mevoli. I have bolded these below.
- Organizers must train with and use Sonar at AIDA World Championships and World Record events and at AIDA competitions with world record status
- Athletes are prohibited from turning back down once they have started to ascend
- Squeezes experienced in competition will have consequences, the nature of which will be established prior to Jan. 1, 2015
- Minimum training will be required for doctors at AIDA World Championships and World Record events, and at AIDA events with world record status
- Minium equipment is required at AIDA World Champion Events, in particular, pocket masks to protect safety divers from blood-born pathogens, allowing them to provide rescue breaths without risk of disease
The sport of freediving, like many sports, is constantly adapting to new discoveries and better ways of doing things. It is encouraging to see this response by AIDA in addressing Mevoli’s tragic death by considering and implementing new safety protocols. It was encouraging to read that AIDA refused to accept death as an inherent risk in freedive competitions. Their commitment to safety is noted in their near-perfect record in preventing fatalities over the past 22 years, with the exception of Nicholas Mevoli. And with this loss, they are working even harder to keep freedive athletes alive and healthy as they enjoy this awe-inspiring sport.