Dead freediver wanted to ‘grab handful of sand’

Freediving death at Cala Jondal (Anibal Amaro)
Cala Jondal (Anibal Amaro)

A British man has died following one of a series of recreational freedive attempts on the Balearic island of Ibiza. 

Martin “Percy” Smith, 33, who lived each summer in the tourist resort of Playa D’en Bossa, had been out on a boat chartered with friends and family at Cala Jondal on the south coast on 4 August. He had been snorkelling but stated that he also planned to be freediving to “grab a handful of sand from the bottom”.

At around 3pm he was spotted at the surface about 30m from the boat, and witnesses said that at first they had thought he was still snorkelling. They eventually realised that his although his snorkel was dipping beneath the surface he was not expelling any water, according to a report in the Nottingham Post.

Smith was described as “a very keen freediver” with experience gained in Thailand and Vietnam, where he worked as an English teacher each winter. He had made up to a dozen dives that day, though it is not known to what depth. 

Three people dived in to bring him back to the boat, where attempts were made to resuscitate him using CPR. “After about 10 minutes we managed to get a really weak pulse back,” said a friend, Andrew Gibson. They continued for up to half an hour before paramedics arrived by jet-ski from a nearby beach-club, but after a further 20 minutes’ treatment he was declared dead.

“Another friend of mine died around the corner from where Martin died doing the same thing two years ago,” Gibson told the newspaper. “It’s quite common for people who are freediving to have underwater black-outs. You over-estimate how much oxygen you’ve got in your body and pass out…  It can happen in two or three metres of water.”

Because Smith had no insurance cover, a crowdfunding appeal was started to raise £5,000 to send his body home to England, and had raised nearly £11,000 within four days.

Death on the Spiegel Grove

Meanwhile, another scuba-diving death has occurred on a Florida Keys shipwreck, this time on the Spiegel Grove, six miles off Key Largo, yesterday (9 August). 

Other wreck-divers on the Horizon Divers boat recovered the unnamed man from inside the wreck at around 1pm, stated Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Detectives were investigating and a post mortem examination was being carried out.

The 153m-long USS Spiegel Grove was a transport ship sunk for divers in 2002. Its maximum depth is 44m at the stern.

The death occurred only two days after the US Coast Guard had called off the search for dive instructor Tommy Faulkenberry, who disappeared while diving another ex-naval artificial reef, the USS Gen Hoyt S Vandenberg, off Key West, as reported on Divernet. The previous week a 13-year old boy had died in the Middle Keys, while freediving to spear fish off Duck Key island.

And in the US Pacific island territory of Guam, search and rescue services have suspended a major operation to find a male snorkeller who had gone missing off Tanguisson Beach on 6 August. The 50-year-old had failed to return from a swim with another snorkeller.

The 68-hour operation had involved the US Coast Guard and Navy and Guam’s fire and police departments, and covered 368sq miles. Snorkel gear that appeared to match that of the missing man was reported to have been found.

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