NEW YORK (AP) — A 32-year-old New York City man who broke the U.S. constant weight record for freediving soon after beginning his competitive career last year died Sunday while participating in a tournament in the Bahamas, police said.
Nicholas Mevoli, who lived in the city's Brooklyn borough, died around 2 p.m. off the coast of the Bahamas' Long Island, about 164 miles (265 kilometers) southeast of the capital of Nassau, officials said. His body was flown to Nassau, where an autopsy was expected.
The Switzerland-based Association Internationale pour le Développement de l'Apnée, or AIDA, a worldwide federation for breath-holding diving, released a statement Sunday saying Mevoli reached the 72-meter depth of the no fins dive, swam back to the surface but had difficulty breathing while completing surface protocol and lost consciousness.
"Nick appears to have suffered from a depth-related injury to his lungs," the AIDA statement said.
Freedivers, unlike scuba divers, enter the water without air tanks, regulators and hoses and swim to various depths relying entirely on the air held in their lungs.
Mevoli's uncle, Paul Mevoli, said Sunday his nephew was a free spirit who grew up loving swimming and got hooked on diving as an 8-year-old boy on trips to the Florida Keys, where he would spearfish and dive for lobsters.
"Nobody could do what he did under the water," said Paul Mevoli, 55, a dentist in St. Petersburg, Fla.
It would take Nicholas Mevoli about 2 minutes and 45 seconds to dive down and back up 300 feet (91.4 meters) of water in just one breath, his uncle said.
"He was very talented," said Paul Mevoli. "Even the people in the freediving world couldn't believe his skill."
Nicholas Mevoli was a Florida native who worked in the television industry in New York and was writing a screenplay about a young man on a boat and his adventures in the Florida Keys, his uncle said.
William Trubridge, organizer of the tournament, said Mevoli was trying to break a record for the deepest "Constant No Fins" freedive at the International Free Diving Competition, a nine-day contest that organizers say brought 56 divers from 21 countries. They were competing for a $20,000 prize as they tried to see who could dive the deepest without fins.
The event was canceled after Mevoli's death, Trubridge said.
Mevoli was an accomplished freediver, winning or placing highly in various international freediving tournaments, including the top prize in the Deja Blue competition in Curaçao earlier this year and a silver medal in constant no fins at the AIDA Depth World Championship in Greece, according to the AIDA.
The Bahamas competition took place at Dean's Blue Hole, which at 663 feet (202 meters), is considered the world's deepest underwater sinkhole in seawater.
Associated Press writer Trenton Daniel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed to this report.