Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

Free diver from Pinellas died doing what he loved (w/video)

More than 223 feet below the surface, just a few feet from a new record, diver Nicholas Mevoli paused.

Days earlier, an upper respiratory issue had forced him to abandon a dive.

On Sunday, in the waters off the Bahamas, the 32-year-old Pinellas County native faced a choice: break the American record or return to the surface.

Mevoli was at peace in the water. He could swim at 18 months old, learned to hold his breath and sink to the bottom soon after. When spearfishing in the Florida Keys, he'd go deeper and longer than anyone.

In May he broke an American record for free diving, in which participants descend as far as they can on a single breath.

Now, another record in sight, there was little question about what came next.

He headed deeper into the blue.

• • •

Mevoli was 8 the first time his uncle, Paul Mevoli, a St. Petersburg dentist, took him spearfishing in the Keys. While the uncle showed him the ropes, Nicholas made the sport his own.

"When it came to being in the water," Nicholas said in a YouTube video posted in August, "that was where I really shined."

He netted lobster no one thought he could reach. He dived for minutes at a time, popping out of the water with a fish on the end of his spear. He never gave up.

"I think he thought he was invincible," Paul Mevoli said.

He also loved the calmness of the deep.

"You're down there in your own thoughts, and you're witnessing things that most people don't have a chance to see in complete serenity and quietude," he said in the video.

Nicholas Mevoli started hiding in the water when he was 3 or 4 years old. When his mother tried to call him out of the pool, Mevoli would cling to the underwater ladder to hide, the uncle said.

Nicholas spent his childhood in Seminole and Largo and moved to Tallahassee with his mother when he was a teen. After high school, he moved to Brooklyn to pursue an acting career but ended up working with props in the TV industry.

He discovered competitive free diving about three years ago, said his sister, Jennifer Sharpe, 41, of Orlando. In free diving, participants must learn to relax their bodies, minimizing oxygen consumption and allowing them to stay longer underwater.

"It offers you an interaction with nature that few sports offer, but you need to be aware of your vulnerabilities," said Bill Van Deman, owner of Abyss Freediving in Tampa.

Mevoli invested in equipment and watched contests. He traveled to Greece and Honduras.

He was a natural. In May, he broke the American record for constant weight dive — a dive using one fin to kick down — by reaching a depth of more than 328 feet.

The diving scared his sister but she understood. He was doing what he loved. "He was a competitor," Sharpe said.

On Sunday, at a competition called Vertical Blue, he attempted to break a record for a dive without fins for propulsion.

At 223 feet, 10 feet shy of the record, he stopped.

"I'm sure in that moment, I don't know what was going through his mind, but he was going for it," said his sister.

Mevoli reached his goal, staying underwater more than 3 1/2 minutes before surfacing.

Moments later he lost consciousness and began coughing up blood. Rescuers tried to revive him, but Mevoli was pronounced dead about an hour later.

• • •

Before Mevoli died, his uncle said, he'd completed a fourth draft of a screenplay about a young lobster fisherman.

In the story, the teen abandons cellphones and video games and finds solace in the water. The boy wins a competition, gets rich and gives his fortune to save the Keys.

"He basically was writing his own script," Paul Mevoli said.

Nicholas Mevoli died of depth-related injuries, according to the Swiss-based governing body of the Vertical Blue competition. A more detailed review of his death is under way.

To honor Nicholas, Paul Mevoli said, he hopes to make his movie. "Of course," he said, "we're going to have to change the ending."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report, which contains information from the Associated Press. Claire Wiseman can be reached at (727)893-8804 or [email protected] On Twitter: @clairelwiseman

 
Comments
Police: St. Pete man who pried a safe out of the wall in custody

Police: St. Pete man who pried a safe out of the wall in custody

ST. PETERSBURG — It took more than an hour for a 25-year-old man to break into a restaurant, pry a safe out of the wall, drag it through the back and then wrestle it into his car, according to police.That was last week. Michael Murphy was arrested Tu...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
FSU starter Josh Ball faces Title IX suspension over dating violence accusation

FSU starter Josh Ball faces Title IX suspension over dating violence accusation

Florida State starting offensive tackle Josh Ball faces a university suspension after a Title IX investigation found him responsible for dating violence.The suspension came to light in a Facebook post Monday afternoon by Sandra Sellers, an FSU studen...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Here’s why there are so many coyotes and why they are spreading so fast

Here’s why there are so many coyotes and why they are spreading so fast

For eons, coyotes roamed what is now the western United States, with its wide-open plains. Then came European settlers, who cut down forests for farms and ranches in a steady east-west march. Along the way, they killed large predators such as pumas a...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
HBO: Ex-Buc Scot Brantley battling Alzheimer’s, claim denied by NFL

HBO: Ex-Buc Scot Brantley battling Alzheimer’s, claim denied by NFL

Former Gators and Bucs linebacker Scot Brantley, also once a popular sports radio host in Tampa, is battling Alzheimer's Disease and has been rejected from the NFL's concussion settlement, according to tonight's episode of HBO's "Real Sports with Bry...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 Mr. Essential

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 Mr. Essential

TAMPA — He's the Lightning's best player. He's its most important player.Well, other than goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. That's a given. Every team relies most heavily on its goalie.But if the Lightning is going win a nerve-racking, heart-stopping,...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

The U.S. Coast Guard was searching Tuesday for a 50-year-old North Carolina man who reportedly fell off a Tampa-based cruise ship.The Coast Guard Key West received a call from the cruise ship Carnival Paradise about 10 a.m. saying the man, Brian Lamo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

TAMPA — By now there are no more secretes. After six games over 11 days, the Lightning know all the Capitals' habits , and the Caps know all the Lightning's.To Lightning coach Jon Cooper the outcome of tonight's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Driver gets 28 years in prison for fleeing fatal Howard Frankland crash

Driver gets 28 years in prison for fleeing fatal Howard Frankland crash

TAMPA — After Allison Huffman slammed her car into a tow truck driver who had stopped to help a pair of stranded motorists on the Howard Frankland Bridge, she drove to a hotel and got out to look at the damage.She saw shattered glass, a bare tire rim...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Academy at the Lakes wins first state softball title

Academy at the Lakes wins first state softball title

VERO BEACH —Academy at the Lakes waited two weeks to play in the Class 2A state softball tournament in hopes of winning what has been an elusive title.The Wildcats completed the first task Monday, cruising to a mercy-rule win over Fort Pierce John Ca...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Faria on the mound

For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Faria on the mound

UPDATE, 6:04: Cash said the Rays don't know yet if Wendle will be  back Thursday or Friday, though with the Sox starting RHP Rick Porcello on Thursday that would make sense. …  Cash said OF Carlos Gomez (groin strain) will run the bas...
Updated: 2 hours ago