Professional freediver talks safety after miraculous rescue at Wrightsville Beach

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — One man is alive today because of an unforgettable rescue and a miraculous recovery.

It was a regular day on the job for Seatow Captain Scott Collins when a woman flagged him down, directing him to a diver who was face down in the water.

“Just seeing a lifeless body in a black wet suit face down in the water, I immediately thought the worst,” Collins said.

He says the diver was unconscious, not breathing and had no pulse.

Collins immediately pulled the man out, performed CPR and called EMS.

“I didn’t think there was going to be as good of an outcome as there was, but it’s definitely ingrained in my mind for sure for life,” Collins said.

He says the diver appeared to suffer from a shallow water blackout, essentially passing out in the water. Its relatively common when freediving, the sport of prolonged breath-hold diving.

“We’re advancing this state of hypoxia throughout our dive, this degree of lack of oxygen,” World Champion Professional Free Diver Ashley Chapman said. “So we’re utilizing oxygen and building CO2 in our system and what can happen is something that we call a black out. This loss of consciousness.”

Chapman says that’s why its important to always dive with a buddy.

“It’s not something that we expect to happen all the time, but it can happen and if it happens and you’re not with a buddy and you don’t have a buddy directly supervising you, you could die,” she said.

Chapman says the number one rule of freediving is to never dive alone.

“That rule stands, unequivocally, across any kind of free diving that you’re going to do,” she said. “If you’re spearfishing, if you’re in your backyard pool trying to hold your breath, if you’re a competitive diver.”

She also recommends always having direct supervision.

“Direct supervision means somebody is watching you, not just ‘same ocean, same day’ kind of scenario. Always within arms reach,” Chapman said. “So if I’m directly supervising you, it’s not from 50 yards away. It’s where I can grab you at any time.”

She says the sport can be dangerous, but incredibly rewarding if the right steps are taken each time.

“You have to freedive safely every single time, you can never make exceptions,” Chapman said. “So, there again, never dive alone and enjoy the underwater world through free diving.”

Chapman says if you are interested in pursuing freediving, take a class before exploring the sport yourself.

Captain Collins says the diver has since made a full recovery.

WWAY has reached out to the diver and has not yet heard back.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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