Triumph After A Double Near-Tragedy

Jim McCarthy and Robert Richardson on Mobile Bay, Alabama

How far would you go to promote your favorite charity? Two men from South Florida set off on October 3 to ride their bikes 3200 miles across the country from Los Angeles to Miami. It’s all in the name of freedive safety.

Four years ago Robert Richardson, then 20, nearly died along with his brother when they both blacked out while freediving near Biscayne Bay. Freedivers do not use scuba gear, and instead rely on their ability to hold their breath during the dives. It’s a sport that has been around for thousands of years, but it has its dangers.

“My brother and I passed out just before we surfaced, and thankfully my friends on the boat saw us and were able to rescue and revive us,” said Robert. “What happened to us is called freediver blackout, and unfortunately nearly 60 divers lost their lives from this last year alone. We want to bring that number down to zero!” 

The two brothers were found floating face down by three companions. They were purple and lifeless and bleeding from the mouth. Robert and his brother David received CPR from their young friends until Rescue arrived. They were medevaced under life support to a local hospital where they later made a full recovery. 

After the accident, Robert’s mother, Julie Richardson, started an organization called DiveWise to alert divers not only to the dangers but how to enjoy the sport safely. The organization has an international reach and received the 2010 national award from the National Water Safety Congress, an organization funded by the United States Coast Guard. 

Jim McCarthy, also a freediving enthusiast and the CEO of DiveWise, joined Robert on this cross-country bicycle trip to raise funds and awareness for the safe enjoyment of the sport they love. They end their journey by carrying their bikes into the waters off Key Biscayne on November 20, 2012. 

You can follow Robert and Jim’s travels at www.sea2sea4charity.com, and visit www.divewise.org for more information on freedive safety.

By Julie Richardson

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