An Ailing Blaine Comes Up for Air Short of a World Record

Associated Press
Tuesday, May 9, 2006

NEW YORK, May 8 -- Stunt artist David Blaine was pulled from an aquarium by divers Monday nearly two minutes short of his goal of setting a world record for holding his breath under water. The attempt at the record followed an endurance challenge in which Blaine spent a week submerged in the eight-foot tank.

With Blaine's face contorted in pain and bubbles coming up to the surface, divers went in to release him from chains and pull him out. Blaine held his breath for 7 minutes 8 seconds, falling short of the world record of 8:58.

Kirk Krack, his trainer and a diving expert, offered encouragement as Blaine remained nearly still for the first five minutes. Then, methodically, Blaine removed two of his handcuffs and was trying to remove chains that held him before the divers came in to save him.

After being given oxygen, Blaine addressed the large crowd that had gathered around the snow globe-like tank on the plaza of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

"I am humbled so much by the support of everyone from New York City and from all over the world," he said.

Murat Gunel, who heads Blaine's medical team and is associate professor of neurosurgery at Yale University School of Medicine, said before the attempt that the challenge had taken a toll on the magician's body, including liver damage, pins and needles in his feet and hands, some loss of sensation and rashes all over his body.

The 33-year-old Blaine started training in December, with some help from Navy SEALs. He lost 50 pounds so his body would require less oxygen.

As early as the second day of his challenge, Gunel said, there was evidence that Blaine was suffering liver failure; the medical team consulted with medical experts at NASA before stabilizing his condition. Blaine's underwater environment was similar to the weightlessness experienced by astronauts in outer space, he said.

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