According to Outside Magazine, on July 22, one of freediving‘s most well-known and accomplished safety divers, Stephen Keenan, died during a rescue mission. This is the first safety diver to pass away during a rescue.
Outside reports Keenan’s cause of death was a shallow-water blackout, while he was attempting the rescue of fellow freediver Alessia Zecchini from a depth of 50 feet. The dive took place in the Blue Hole, a popular destination for freediving in the Red Sea, just off the coast of Egypt.
According to Outside, Keenan’s was the first recorded death in the history of the sport of a freediver taking place during a dive.
Both Keenan and Zecchini were extremely accomplished divers – last May, Zecchini claimed the world record for depth achieved on a single breath with a dive of 104 meters (341 feet) at the Vertical Blue competition in the Bahamas. Keenan was known worldwide not only for his skill in the sport, but also for his expertise as a safety diver. Outside notes that Keenan trained hundreds of students in Egypt, Spain and the Philippines, and was seen throughout the sport assisting in dives wherever he could.
During the dive that took place July 22, conditions were far from ideal with . For safety reasons, Zecchini asked Keenan to tail her while she attempted to swim to the Arch, an 85-foot-long redrock tunnel set 184 feet deep in the Blue Hole.
During the dive, Zecchini became disoriented, and Keenean rushed to her aid. He was able to guide her back to the direction of the surface, but at an unknown depth, appears to have blacked out.
He was later found floating facedown and unresponsive. Repeated attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Keenan was 39 years old.
With the freediving and outdoor community still reeling from the news of Keenan’s unexpected passing, it serves as a reminder of the dangers that athletes and enthusiasts combat daily in the name of their passion.
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