Stunt artist and street magician David Blaine performed one of his most notable stunts back in 2006. Unlike most of his death-defying performances, this one took a horrible turn.
Blaine had been submerged for seven days in a spherical aquarium filled with 2,000 gallons of water, complete with diving gear and oxygen. To celebrate his last day of being “drowned alive,” Blaine attempted to hold his breath underwater while beating German free-diver Tom Sieta‘s record of 8 minutes and 58 seconds.
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The setup took place in front of the historical Lincoln Center in New York City. It was televised by ABC in an hour-and-a-half television special titled “David Blaine: Drown Alive.” The special showed the hours of preparation that Blaine had to go through to condition his body for the ordeal, this included training with navy seals and doing breath exercises in the ocean.
The main event had Blaine being stripped off the diving gear and sucking in his last breath of air in front of a huge crowd.
Things were clearly taking a wrong turn when Blaine’s face contorted with pain five minutes into the stunt. It got more alarming a minute later, so a group of divers were called into the tank to fully free Blaine of his restraints. Experts have gone to say that this dangerous act was a death certificate written all over it, as Blaine was pushing for his body to do more than it could.
In the end, Blaine was still met with a rousing applause, despite falling short of the world record at seven minutes and thirty seconds, two minutes short of Sieta’s.
According to Dr. Murat Gunel, an associate professor at Yale University and happens to be the head the medical team assigned to Blaine, “He is pushing his body insanely to the limits.”
“I told him he needed to get out of the water, and he refused me,” Gunel added. “He said he did not want to let the people down.”
Blaine’s extreme condition was stabilized after the performance, despite suffering dehydration and liver damage as a result from spending a total of 177 hours underwater. He addressed the crowd and thanked them for their presence to conclude the show.
“I am humbled so much by the support of everyone from New York City and from all over the world,” Blaine said. “This was a very difficult week, but you all made it fly by with your strong support and your energy. Thank you so much, everybody.. . . I love you all.”