The aftermath of a tragedy

Miami, October 15, 2002: The tragic outcome of Audrey Mestre’s October 12 attempt on the no-limits freediving world record has by now been widely reported in the world media. I have seen such accounts in print, broadcast and internet outlets originating in several countries. All seem to have been prepared and distributed in good faith, but there were numerous elementary errors and a dearth of clarity with respect to the distinction between conjecture and fact.

I will now report exactly what happened, and then address the forensic aspect.

What happened was that an exquisite young soul, a magnificent and irreplaceable human being — an entire world – was lost to us on that day.

The rest is just engineering and physics. The forensic analysis proceeds apace, informed by video, depth sensor data recordings, the personal accounts of crew and observers, the coroner’s preliminary report and, eventually, his final report. And more. We all want to know the causes — we need to know the causes. Our humanity requires that we know.

I have spoken to all of the key participants in this event, and I am confident that in time, a disciplined account will be rendered and made public. I am equally certain that any putative conclusions published at this point are premature and should be treated as speculative. I understand, and am by no means personally immune to that craving for understanding that drives such speculation, but I counsel patience.

I repeat: what happened was that an exquisite young soul, a magnificent and irreplaceable human being — an entire world in and of itself – was lost to us. At this point that is the full report, and it seems to me that in its enormity it should more than suffice.

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Paul Kotik has been a Staff Writer and Freediving Editor for He lives in Florida, USA with his family.

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