On the Cusp of Enlightenment

Dear Simone, 

I can’t stop thinking about what happened on Oct. 12, 2002, in the Dominican Republic, and I want other peoples’ thoughts on the incident. The incident in question is the untimely death (or was it murder?) of Audrey Mestre, a no limits free diver from France. Do you think Audrey was murdered by her husband, Francisco “Pipin” Ferreras? Or was it just a horrible, terrible diving accident? Curious to know your thoughts so I can finally put this to rest. 

Respectfully, Tanya

Dear Tanya, 

I have been wondering the same thing for much of my life. Was Audrey the victim of just hypoxia, or was uxoricide also to blame? After doing hours of research and plumbing the depths of Pipin and Audrey’s relationship, I have come to the conclusion that the cause of death was involuntary manslaughter, or negligent homicide, by Pipin. Here is everything you need to know: 

Audrey Mestre and Pipin Ferreras were a couple, as you already know, but I believe their relationship, though once passionate, turned toxic and manipulative once Ferreras became unfit to dive. Ferreras, though unable to dive himself, saw potential in Mestre, and trained her to become the free diver he could never be. At the dive site in the Dominican Republic, it was clear that Mestre was not in the right state of mind. She looked empty and defeated before even going into the water. She also suffered from a black eye; though it is not clear where it came from, I believe it was Ferreras’ warning to Audrey the night before that she must go through with the dive, despite her not wanting to. In the moments leading up to the dive, Ferreras was seen acting in a crazed state, pushing people away and not checking the tanks and whatnot in preparation for the dive. In addition, the number of deep water safety divers Ferreras should have had set up for Mestre’s dive should have been twice the number he had procured, which was two: one at the 80 meter mark, and one at the 160 meter mark. Furthermore, these safety divers should have been equipped with pony tanks, or tanks of air that could be clipped onto the diver at any time in order to rocket her back up to the surface in case the lift balloon at the bottom malfunctioned. That is what happened: the balloon was not full of air, and Audrey sat at 160 meters trying to get the empty balloon to raise her to the surface. When it didn’t, a safety diver used his own air supply tank to fill the lift bag, but the force was not enough to rocket her to the surface. In her slow descent upwards, what should have been a 3-minute dive turned into an 8.5-minute dive, ending with Ferreras strapping on his scuba gear to rescue Mestre at the 90 meter mark. When she was brought to the surface, the “doctor” on board turned out to be a dentist and therefore could not help resuscitate her. They hurried her to shore, but the infirmary was under construction, so it was ultimately another 30 minutes before she made it to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead shortly after her arrival. 

This is why Ferreras is to blame for the preventable death of Audrey Mestre: as the person organizing the dive, he should have a) checked that the tank was full of air for the lift bag to be inflated, b) had more deep water safety divers who were equipped with extra pony tanks and c) had the required doctor on board the boat. Ferreras not only did not follow safety regulations when he went through with an underfunded dive, but his relationship with Mestre was manipulative to the point where Audrey could not say “no” to him. She was forced to go through with a dive she did not want to do. 

All in all, I do not think Ferreras purposefully did not fill the oxygen tank, but it was an act of gross negligence for him to have proceeded with a dive that was so fiercely not by the books, and therefore it is my opinion, nay, my truth, that Audrey Mestre was a victim of negligent homicide by her husband and that he should be held accountable.