A record-setting professional diver from Brooklyn, N.Y., died on Sunday while participating in a competition in the Bahamas.
Nicholas Mevoli, 32, died while attempting to set the free diving record at Dean’s Blue Hole—an underwater sinkhole—in the Bahamas, CNN reports. The Brooklyn native reportedly sought to dive to a depth of 72 meters, or 236 feet, without the benefit of fins or other diving gear.
Mevoli managed to reach his target depth, and flashed an “OK” sign upon returning to the surface, CNN reports. However, he began to have difficulty breathing and lost consciousness.
"Nick appears to have suffered from a depth-related injury to his lungs," AIDA, a worldwide organization for free diving, said in a statement. After his death, Mevoli’s body was flown to Nassau to undergo an autopsy. The exact cause of his death will be known after the procedure is completed.
At the time of his death, Mevoli was competing in the International Free Diving Competition, the Associated Press reports. He was attempting to break a record for deepest “Constant No Fins” free dive. The event was supposed to last for nine days, but organizer William Trubridge canceled the rest of the competition in the wake of Mevoli’s death.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Paul Mevoli, Nicholas’ uncle, lamented his loss. “Nobody could do what he did under the water,” Mevoli said. “He was very talented. Even the people in the free diving world couldn’t believe his skill.”
Considered an extreme sport, free diving is the practice of swimming to great depths without the aid of oxygen tanks or other typical scuba-diving gear. As they descend, free divers can experience various negative health effects, including decreased heart rate and compressed lungs. Despite the dangers associated with the sport, Mevoli is the first person to die during a competition in over two decades, CNN reports.
Aside from his athletic endeavors, Mevoli worked in the television industry in New York, the Associated Press reports. He was reportedly writing a screenplay about a young man on a boat in the Florida Keys, according to his uncle.
A video of Mevoli's performance at the Carribbean Cup Free Diving competition can be viewed below. The event marked the first time that an American free diver reached the 100-meter depth barrier.