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Frenchwoman hit 558 feet down in practice dive

Associated Press

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- A French woman who died trying to break a world mark in free diving will be recognized as the record holder after all.

Audrey Mestre, 28, died Saturday after plunging into deep waters near La Romana, 81 miles east of Santo Domingo.

Based on a practice dive made three days before her death, she has been credited with the record, the Miami-based International Association of Free Divers said Monday.

Attached to a 200-pound weighted sled mounted on a steel cable, Mestre reached 561 feet on a single breath, then apparently blacked out, said Carlos Serra, president of the Miami-based International Association of Free Divers, which was monitoring the dive.

In order for that dive to be considered a record, she needed to surface safely, Serra said.

But the association will recognize Mestre's unofficial practice attempt Wednesday, when she dove 558 feet and met all the requirements in front of judges.

''As a posthumous homage we are going to recognize her record,'' Serra said.

She was attempting to break the ''no limits'' dive world record of 531.5 feet, set by her husband Francisco ''Pipin'' Ferreras in January 2000.

After the dive Saturday, witnesses initially said it appeared Mestre was given oxygen by one of 13 safety divers while ascending. But Serra said interviews with scuba divers revealed Mestre turned down offers of oxygen.

She was brought up 9 minutes and 44 seconds after she descended on the dive, which was supposed to take about three minutes.

Officials were still trying to determine what went wrong, but a preliminary autopsy report indicated she drowned after losing consciousness, Serra said.




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