How Did a 24-Year-Old Drown While Holding His Breath Underwater? Expert Explains

Playing How to Hold Your Breath Safely Underwater

Holding your breath underwater – a test of skill or just plain dangerous?

Robert Bunsa, 24, of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, drowned at a bachelor party as he competed with their friends to see who could hold their breaths underwater the longest.

“Guy’s been underwater for like seven minutes,” a friend says in his call to 911. “He’s not breathing. He’s not breathing. God, please!”

Bunsa suffered what's known as a shallow water blackout, which happens when swimmers hold their breath for too long.

Taking multiple breaths before going underwater, or hyperventilating, makes it even more likely for the swimmer to lose consciousness and drown, often unnoticed by other swimmers.

Inside Edition’s Megan Alexander met with swimming education expert Jim Spiers to discuss the dangers of holding your breath underwater.

“It could happen to anyone at any pool,” Alexander said. “Even with a lifeguard there watching. And, don’t think because your kids are strong swimmers that it couldn’t happen to them.”

In fact, many swimming pools around the country see kids blacking out while holding their breath underwater.

“Actually, you do not hold your breath,” Spiers said. “You want to exhale underwater.”

To prevent accidental drowning, Spiers advises swimmers to slowly exhale as their head sinks below the water and come up as soon as they need a breath. Most importantly, swimmers should never compete to see who can stay under the longest.

And, for spectators watching from the edge of the pool, Spiers said to watch a swimmer’s movement closely to look out for drowning.

“You would see her stop moving,” he explained. “You would see her possibly lie down on the floor. That would mean you want to get in the water and get her out quickly.”

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