It was just supposed to be some fun and exercise the afternoon that Drew Brislen, 40, went out free diving in the Pacific Ocean off Picnic Beach, which is part of Laguna Beach, Calif.
An architectural draftsman by profession, Brislen grew up on the Southern California coast and was an experienced spear fisherman who competed in open swimming races. The day was May 26, 2011, and when he didn't return home by 9 p.m., his wife Michelle reported him missing. A search was organized and his body was found in the water near Picnic Beach.
Brislen was in the water alone, so it will never be exactly clear what happened. Initially there was speculation he might have become entangled in the kelp, but his wife believes he died due to prolonged breath-holding. She bases that on the fact that Drew's equipment, which she retrieved from authorities, included his dive watch and weight belt, making it less likely he had been entangled.
Michelle Brislen now will be raising their daughters Sage, 7, and Addie, 6, alone. “It all went wrong because he didn’t know about [shallow water blackout], and he was by himself,” she says.
Gene“Whitner” Milner III
The day 25-year-old Gene “Whitner” Milner III died was supposed to have been remembered as a fun day. It was April 16, 2011, and Whitner and some friends had spent the day at the annual Atlanta Steeple Chase.
After the festivities, they went back to his family’s backyard pool for a swim. As the group relaxed at the pool that evening, they competed to see who could hold their breath underwater the longest.
Whitner’s younger sister, Helen “Scottie” Milner, and some of her friends also were around, and the last anyone recalls seeing him alive was around 10:30 p.m. as people were getting out of the water. The lights in the pool were not on and when they couldn’t find Whitner, everyone assumed he was off somewhere talking on the phone with his girlfriend, Laura, who was out of town.
Whitner was found dead in the pool the next evening by his mother, Rhonda Milner, who had been out of town. It is assumed that as his friends were jumping out of the water to gather their things and make plans for the rest of the evening, Whitner went under for one last breath-holding attempt, where he succumbed to drowning as a result of shallow water blackout.
A graduate of the University of Georgia, he was an avid athlete, taller than 6 feet. Whitner loved his two dogs, Red and Bella, and recently had taken up spear fishing.
S. James Funk III
In 1962, Georgia’s Lake Rabun was a popular spot for Atlanta residents to escape during hot summers. So when S. James “Jimmy” Funk III and his family went there, they expected nothing but good times.
Jimmy was 17 that summer and excelled as a student at Westminster School. He was an avid athlete, like his father, an orthopedic surgeon.
At Lake Rabun, he and his friends would compete with each other in various swimming and aquatic challenges, recalls his sister, Helen McSwain, who was 10 years old at the time.
Perhaps he was practicing for one of those competitions when he went swimming alone — against the wishes of his parents, who warned their children to always swim with a buddy — on the morning of July 13, 1962. When his body was found, the death was listed as a drowning.
Today, there is still a scholarship fund in his name at the Westminster School in Atlanta, and Helen and her family believe they lost Jimmy most likely because he was using hyperventilation in repeated attempts to hold his breath longer.