Netflix’s The Deepest Breath tells the tragic yet inspiring love story of Alessia Zecchini, a world-record-setting Italian freediver, and Stephen Keenan, the Irish safety diver she fell head over heels for.
Freediving is one of the world’s most dangerous sports because it hinges on divers’ abilities to hold their breath for multiple minutes as they swim to great depths and back up to the surface, all without oxygen.
The documentary emphasizes the dangers of freediving and how easy it is for divers to die or become seriously injured due to oxygen deprivation to the brain.
If you’re wondering where Alessia Zecchini ended up after the events of The Deepest Breath, we’ve got answers.
Who Is Alessia Zecchini?
Born in 1992, Alessia Zecchini has been training to be a freediver since she was 13. She joined the Italian national team in 2012 and has been setting Italian and world records in freediving ever since. She currently holds the women’s world record in constant weight with monofin freediving, having achieved a staggering depth of 123 meters in May at AIDA Oceanquest Philippines 2023.
She is currently 32 years old.
Who Is Stephen Keenan?
Stephen Keenan was an avid wildlife explorer turned diving instructor who settled in Dahab, Egypt, where a thriving freediving community was based around The Blue Hole, one of the most revered and perilous freediving locations in the world.
An Irish citizen, Keenan set Irish records for men’s constant weight freediving before becoming a highly respected safety diver and diving coach. Safety divers monitor the safety of freedivers as they complete the last 30 meters before hitting the surface when they’re at the highest risk of blacking out due to oxygen deprivation to the brain.
The 2017 Accident at the Blue Hole
The events chronicled in The Deepest Breath, from Zecchini’s career trajectory to Keenan’s pursuit of his dream to explore nature for a living, all lead up to the tragic events that ended his life in June 2017.
After successfully coaching Zecchini to set the world record for constant weight freediving at 104 meters — she has since topped her own record — they began dating and he invited her to Dahab, Egypt, where he offered to coach her to dive the Blue Hole.
Located on the coast of the Red Sea, the Blue Hole is one of the most difficult freediving locations in the world and is notorious for claiming divers’ lives.
The incident happened during a meticulously planned dive in which Zecchini was supposed to dive down into the Blue Hole without a monofin (picture a mermaid tail that holds both feet, allowing divers to swim faster and easier), swim horizontally under the site’s famous underwater arch, and then out the other side, where Keenan would be waiting at a depth of 50 meters to usher her to the surface.
Due to a timing issue, Zecchini exited the arch before Keenan was able to meet her, and she couldn’t find the underwater line that divers grab onto and follow up to the ocean’s surface. When Keenan did reach the point where he was supposed to meet Zecchini, he saw her swimming away in the wrong direction and went after her.
When they made it to the surface, Keenan helped keep Zechhini’s head out of the water before both of them blacked out due to oxygen deprivation. When Zecchini regained consciousness, she found Keenan face down in the water. He later died on the way to the hospital, according to DeeperBlue.
Where Is Alessia Zecchini Now?
Since the accident, Zecchini has gone on to set more world records in freediving. She said in The Deepest Breath that she dedicates many of her dives to Stephen Keenan.
“I recommend freediving to all those who love the sea and want to have a unique, all-encompassing, profound experience with water. And also to all those who have the desire to focus on themselves, get to know each other better, control their body and mind,” she told Il Sud Online in 2021. “When people ask me why I love freediving, I think of these 3 words: depth, enthusiasm and commitment.”
After setting the new women’s world record in May, she wrote on Instagram: “Perseverance, dedication, and determination always pay off… If you have a dream, believe in it and never give up!!!”
Main Image: Alessia Zecchini pictured in The Deepest Breath courtesy of Netflix.