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Modern Mysteries

Boy survives 42 minutes trapped underwater

By T.K. Randall
June 7, 2015 · Comment icon 18 comments

Humans are ill-equipped to last long underwater. Image Credit: National Park Service
What makes it possible for someone to survive for such a long time without being able to breathe ?
The 14-year-old, who had been diving in to a canal in Italy with his friends, got his foot caught on something underwater and found himself unable to return to the surface.

By the time the emergency services had arrived on the scene and freed him he had been under the water for a total of 42 minutes - far longer than any human should have been able to survive.

Amazingly however, despite spending a month on life support, the boy eventually recovered and is now doing fine. So how did he manage to survive for so long without oxygen ?

According to neurologist Dr. Zianka Fallil there are two possible processes that could account for the boy's survival and that of other people who have escaped similar circumstances.

The first is something known as the 'diving reflex', a physiological response to being submerged in water that sees the blood vessels constrict, the heart slow down and blood diverted away from the extremities so that it can go to the important organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys.
Another possible survival mechanism, the selective brain cooling hypothesis, enables the brain to survive for longer when it is immersed in cold water for an extended period of time.

"There are a few studies that have looked at near-drowning victims to see if age, the duration of submersion or the temperature of the water had anything to do with survival," said Dr. Fallil.

"And the one thing that they did find a correlation with was time of submersion."

In a study conducted in 2013 researchers determined that spending anything longer than 10 minutes submerged in water is very unlikely to yield a "good outcome" for the patient.

This conclusion makes it all the more remarkable that the boy in Italy managed to last 42 minutes.

Source: Live Science | Comments (18)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by Podo 9 years ago
That seems...improbable. But hey, weirder things have happened.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Saitung 9 years ago
Just another bit of proof that we humans have not been around long to have answers to everything. Just think, if this had happened 100 years ago it would have been called a myth by today’s science.
Comment icon #11 Posted by STUPID FACE CHINESE WOMEN 9 years ago
Amazing feat!
Comment icon #12 Posted by camelfy 9 years ago
I can hold my breath underwater for at most a minute. 42 minutes? that's insane!
Comment icon #13 Posted by HollandSmith 9 years ago
I'm glad I have read this article before I saw the age of adeline. The diving reflex was also discussed and shown on the movie. At least I was given a background of the thing beforehand.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Mikko-kun 9 years ago
You can submerge two minutes with some years of training, or having some real good training. I've dived over 50 meters at age of 14 or something, could had gone more. You get used to it & it's easier when you stay still. This is not a mystery. It's pretty impressive though.
Comment icon #15 Posted by BorisIWantToKnow 9 years ago
You can submerge two minutes with some years of training, or having some real good training. I've dived over 50 meters at age of 14 or something, could had gone more. You get used to it & it's easier when you stay still. This is not a mystery. It's pretty impressive though. I have a hard time believing you dived over 50 meters at age 14 or something just on your lung capacity, there's a number of factors which make it real improbable for you to be able to do that and you saying that this is not a mystery is absurd. I mean the boy was underwater for 42 minutes!? Isn't the world record like ... [More]
Comment icon #16 Posted by Mikko-kun 9 years ago
Cmon, it's not that hard to go 50 meters, swimming pool back and forth. In murky water it's harder because you need to spend more energy on navigating and balancing, it's a different issue. I dont think it's a mystery because it seems to me the boy just stretched the limits with techniques we're already aware of, instead of using some new mystery trick. Those pearl divers, they go over 50 meters downwards, I went horizontally. http://scuba.about.com/od/Freedivers/p/Freediving-Apnea-World-Records-January-2013.htm I was still 220m away from world record, for perspective. You can do amazing thing... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by AstralProjection1 9 years ago
Maybe it just wasn't his time man. This kid clearly has a reason to be on this earth. Divine intervention perhaps or maybe mind over matter... I don't think the how really matters
Comment icon #18 Posted by Princess Serenity 9 years ago
He's a lot braver and stronger than me. I can barely hold my breath for a mil-second


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