All’epoca dell’incidente di Audrey Mestre, scrissi un editoriale su Immersione Rapida MARE che esaminava attentamente, alla luce delle testimonianze e del computer legato alla caviglia di Audrey, gli accadimenti che portarono alla morte della campionessa. Feci allora delle supposizioni che parevano azzardate, dicendo che era più che evidente che la bombola che Mestre aveva sulla slitta e che doveva servire a gonfiare il pallone di risalita era vuota o scarsamente carica. Lo diceva chiaramente il tempo che Audrey aveva impiegato a compiere i primi 10 metri di risalita, circa 58 secondi. Risalita che iniziò veramente quando il subacqueo dell’assistenza Pascal Barnabe gonfiò il pallone con la sua miscela. Ma quei 58 secondi sotto i 160 metri avevano chiaramente esposto la ragazza alla possibilità di un irreversibile edema polmonare. Navigando in rete, per svolgere la mia professione mi sono imbattuto in un articolo giornalistico, edito dalla CDNN Cyber Diver News Network e scritto da Thomas K. Grose che s’intitola, pensate un po’: ” Passione per gli abissi: E’ stato Francisco “Pipin” Ferreras a uccidere Audrey Mestre?”. Mai avremmo immaginato di leggere un titolo del genere che lascia presupporre la possibilità di un piano mostruoso alle spalle della giovane atleta francese.

Per chiarezza, pubblichiamo interamente il testo apparso nell’articolo, nella lingua originale:
Depths of Passion: Did Francisco ‘Pipin’ Ferreras Murder Audrey Mestre?
Powered by CDNN – CYBER DIVER News Network by THOMAS K. GROSE

When the wife of a champion free diver tried to break his record, something went terribly wrong…
Audrey Mestre was a world-class athlete in a niche sport so physically and mentally punishing that it counts only a handful of practitioners worldwide. She was a “free diver” –one who tests how deep humans can go underwater or how long they can remain submerged–on a single gulp of air. “No limits” free divers like Mestre go deeper than most. Wrapped around a weighted sled that slides on a cable, they plunge hundreds of feet down, then inflate an air bag that shoots them swiftly back to the surface. In the process, they withstand near-crippling water pressure; their lungs shrink to the size of baseballs; their hearts slow to 20 beats a minute; and their sinus cavities fill with salt water to keep their eardrums from exploding. With her thick auburn hair, long legs, and shapely figure, Mestre, 28, was a striking poster girl for no-limits diving. And on the morning of Oct. 12, 2002, under leaden skies, in the choppy waters off the Dominican Republic, she sought to set a world record of 561 feet. That is roughly equivalent to descending and ascending a 55-story building–and she would have to do it in the time she could hold her breath, about three minutes. Even more important, it was 29 1/2feet beyond the record claimed by Francisco “Pipin” Ferreras, the Cuban defector who also happened to be her husband. Ferreras, 42, has for years dominated the sport of free diving, as much because of his personality as his skill. An ornery maverick, he takes pride in being a risk-taker. The French-born Mestre, granddaughter of a renowned spearfisherman, met Ferreras in 1996 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, while she was studying marine biology. She had sought out the bull-chested Cuban with the shaved head and gap-toothed smile, enthralled by his ability to reach depths once thought unattainable by man. In Mestre, Ferreras had found his soul mate, a vivacious woman who shared his passion for the sea. At the time they met, Ferreras was the competitive one, regularly smashing records. But in 1997, he persuaded Mestre to try free diving, and she was immediately hooked. Ferreras realized that his beautiful protege was a natural at the sport, and he put aside his own considerable ego to coach her. Risky business There was a lot to teach. Accomplished no-limits free divers train hard, running, using weight machines, doing isometrics. They also learn to slow their heart rates by going into a meditative state. And though they’re slicing deeply into a dark, wet abyss, they can’t afford to panic–panic can kill at those depths. For unlike scuba divers who breathe compressed air and therefore have to return to the surface slowly to avoid decompression sickness, or “the bends,” nonbreathing free divers must return to the surface at high speed. For them, the last few feet of the return journey is the riskiest, because as blood that has rushed to the brain to protect it at great depths once again courses to the body’s extremities, the drained brain can shut down. But Mestre had never blacked out, so, on the day she set out to top her husband’s record, she was characteristically calm. In case of problems, safety divers were posted at intervals down to 295 feet, with one at the ride’s bottom, at 561 feet. But when she reached that depth, something went horribly wrong. According to a report by the International Association of Free Divers, her husband’s organization, which oversaw the dive, rough weather on the surface had caused the cable that she was to ride to the top to bow, and, perhaps most important, the lift bag that was to shoot her to the top did not fully inflate. She ascended far too slowly, and lost consciousness. Eventually, bottom safety diver Pascal Bernabe managed to get Mestre to 295 feet and hand her to Ferreras, who had donned a tank and dived in to look for his wife. Three minutes was as long as she could last without oxygen. When Ferreras finally got her to the surface, she had been submerged 8 minutes, 48 seconds.
It seemed an accident of tragic proportions. But a year after the incident, Carlos Serra, a key member of Mestre’s team, the onetime president of his diving association, and a man Ferreras has likened to a brother, accused Ferreras of not filling the so-called pony tank that was employed to fill the air bag. “I don’t believe for a second it was a mishap,” Serra says. Keeping the pony tank filled was Ferreras’s job, he says, and three times that morning Ferreras was asked if he had filled it, and he said he had. “I’m sure the tank wasn’t filled because he didn’t want it filled,” Serra says. Serra further claims that the Ferreras-Mestre marriage was troubled and that a jealous Ferreras did not want to lose his record to his wife.
Ferreras strongly denies any culpability in the tragedy, dismissing Serra’s contentions as “sick.” Indeed, he says the tank was Serra’s responsibility. “My statement is clear: The person in charge [of the entire operation] was Carlos.” Moreover, he says, his marriage was sound, and though the relationship was at times tempestuous, he says, it never lacked in love. “We never talked about divorce,” he says.
As to the tanks, Ferreras says his team always operated without specific duties, and filling the tank was a chore everyone and no one assumed. Ferreras says he checked the tank the morning of the dive by opening the valve and feeling the air hiss out. He said he was asked only if he had checked the tank, not filled it. Later, he says, diver Orlando “Tata” Lanza yelled up to the boat, asking if anyone had filled the tank. A voice rang back, “Yes.” “To this day,” Ferreras says, “we don’t know who answered.” “Mistakes were made,” Ferreras concedes in his book about the tragedy, The Dive: A Story of Love and Obsession. “But I am not sure that anyone else could have done any better. Not with more divers. Not with more rules and regulations.”
Tribute. All this controversy comes at a time when Ferreras, despite his continuing grief, should be riding high. His book was just published, and in the works is a film version by Oscar-winning director James Cameron of Titanic fame. Cameron was on hand filming off the coast of Mexico last October 12, the anniversary of Mestre’s death, when Ferreras dived to 557.8 feet in a tribute to Mestre, who had reached that same mark three days before her death. Cameron, a free diver himself, hopes to begin filming Ferreras’s story in two years. “Do you think I would make a movie about the guy if I thought he was a fraud?” Ferreras, meanwhile, is preparing for a record 600-foot dive later this year off the coast of Italy, and he says he won’t retire until he hits 200 meters, or 656 feet. “This is the life we chose, or the life that chose us,” he says. “It’s all about risk, about living on the edge.”

Nella parte che abbiamo evidenziato in nero appare evidente che Carlos Serra, un membro chiave della equipe di Pipin, considerato come un fratello dal recordman cubano, afferma di non credere nemmeno per un istante alla versione della tragedia. Afferma che il compito di riempire la bombola era di Pipin e che quella mattina gli aveva chiesto per ben tre volte se aveva caricato la bombola e per tre volte Pipin aveva risposto si. “I’m sure the tank wasn’t filled because he didn’t want it filled,” Serra says… Sono parole pesanti queste di Serra, che in pratica accusa Pipin di aver volutamente omesso di caricare le bombole. Se una cosa del genere fosse dimostrabile, proverebbe nel cubano la volontà di uccidere Audrey e dalla tragedia incidentale si scivolerebbe come minimo nell’omicidio preterintenzionale o peggio in quello premeditato. Tanto per rincarare la dose, Serra afferma anche che il matrimonio di Pipin e Audrey era molto agitato e secondo lui Pipin era geloso di Audrey che avrebbe potuto con la sua fama metterlo in ombra. Naturalmente Pipin smentisce tutto e anzi afferma che il responsabile dell’organizzazione era proprio Carlos, e che nessuno aveva in particolare il compito di riempire la bombola. Sottolinea che quella mattina aveva controllato che fosse carica aprendo il rubinetto e ascoltando il sibilo dell’aria compressa e puntualizza che quando chiese dal mare se qualcuno aveva caricato la bombola, qualcuno, non si sa chi, rispose affermativamente. Questi in sintesi i fatti… Ora Pipin sta guadagnando i diritti del libro che ha pubblicato (anche questo è un fatto)e il film sull’incidente è di prossima realizzazione. Conosco Pipin da oltre 15 anni, ed ho avuto molte occasioni per parlargli. Francamente stento a credere a quello che ho letto, ma dentro di me, non posso negarlo, i perché senza risposta si agitano… Perché Carlos Serra, un ex “fratello” a un anno dalla morte esce con certe affermazioni? Perché il collega Tomas K.Grose scrive un articolo come quello? Perché Pipin non ha usato un manometro per misurare la pressione della Bombola? Perché secondo lui non c’era una persona responsabilmente individuata che doveva controllare che quella bombola di vitale importanza per Audrey fosse carica? Perché la tesi della bombola scarica emerge solo a un anno di distanza? Perché Pipin in superficie, nella funzione di stand by diver, non aveva già indossato una bombola e ha perso tempo a cercarne una? Testimonianza riportatami dai presenti al record? Tanti perché che non troveranno mai una risposta e, a mio parere, una unica certezza: Anche se ci fossero stati dieci subacquei per l’assistenza e una mostruosa organizzazione Audrey sarebbe morta egualmente. Ad ucciderla infatti sono stati i 58 secondi passati a oltre 60 metri e l’edema polmonare che ha impedito al residuo ossigeno presente nei polmoni di raggiungere il cervello (teoria confermatami anni fa dal prof. Fabio Faralli alla luce della lettura del diagramma di risalita di Audrey). Tutto ruota dunque intorno alla bombola scarica o carica. Ma come si fa a dimostrare che una bombola che è stata aperta a 169 metri era scarica? In superficie quella bombola sarebbe sempre e comunque arrivata scarica. Dunque? O siamo innanzi a una sgangherata organizzazione logistica o ad un omicidio perfetto. Ma gli omicidi devono avere un movente. Possibile che quello di Pipin fosse la gelosia sportiva? Francamente ci sembra azzardato anche solo pensarlo! Marcello Toja

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