Netflix’s new freediving documentary The Deepest Breath reveals the tragic story of what happened to renowned freediver and safety diver Stephen Keenan in 2017.
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 starts by keeping what happened to Keenan ambiguous to the audience, but hinting that he might have met an unpleasant fate. So if you’re wondering where he is now and what happened to him, we’ve got answers.
What Happened to Stephen Keenan
Stephen Keenan died in June 2017 while rescuing his girlfriend, Alessia Zecchini, when she got lost underwater during a dive into the infamously dangerous Blue Hole in Dahab, Egypt.
Keenan was an avid wildlife explorer turned diving instructor who settled in Dahab, where there was a thriving freediving community.
An Irish citizen, Keenan set Irish records for men’s constant weight freediving before becoming a highly respected safety diver and coach. Safety divers monitor the safety of freedivers as they ascend the perilous last 30 meters before reaching the ocean’s surface when they’re at the highest risk of blacking out due to oxygen deprivation to the brain.
The 2017 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 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.
By the time they made it to the surface, they had both blacked out due to oxygen deprivation, though Keenan was able to get Zecchini’s head into a position that prevented her from drowning. When Zecchini regained consciousness, she found Keenan face down in the water. He later died on the way to the hospital, according to DeeperBlue.
The Deepest Breath is now streaming on Netflix.
Main Image: Stephen Keenan and Alessia Zecchini pictured in The Deepest Breath courtesy of Netflix