In this article:
- Yuri Lipski was a Russian-Israeli diving instructor who became known for his death at the Blue Hole, a diving spot near Dahab, Egypt, in the Red Sea.
- Following his death, rumors began to circulate among divers that Yuri Lipski had recorded his own death as he descended to the bottom of the 120-meter/393 feet deep diving spot.
- Witnesses who saw Yuri Lipski in his last moments on land report him diving unaccompanied and carrying only one oxygen tank.
- Theories about Yuri Lipski’s death range from succumbing to nitrogen narcosis, having a freak accident, and his own recklessness as many divers have pointed out that Lipski had made several risky choices in his final dive.
Danger lurks in every corner, especially when you like a good adventure. If you’re the type who likes going out into the world in search of the next scenic spot and the next thrill, you’ll understand how much preparation goes into planning trips.
Hikers will spend weeks or months crushing it at the gym and hiking smaller mountains while divers practice at shallower spots.
Both groups are always gearing up for the “big one”— the next big adventure on their list.
This was likely what was on Yuri Lipski’s mind when he decided he would dive into the abyss of the Blue Hole, a famous diving spot in the Red Sea that comes in at about 390 feet deep. Its calm surface hides a dark secret.
Few people who died at the Blue Hole are ever recovered.
Enter the Blue Hole: One of the Deadliest Diving Spots on the Planet
Divers and hikers do their adventures on opposite planes of the Earth, but if there’s one thing we all agree on, it’s doing your research.
So let’s have a look at exactly what Yuri Lipski was up against.
The Blue Hole in Dahab, Egypt is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the Sinai peninsula. If you have the guts for it, or, alternatively, a low sense of self-preservation, it’s the place to go to experience the sea like never before.
Scariness aside, the Blue Hole is a beautiful diving spot that features a massive coral reef wall along its shallow lagoon.
Like most famous diving attractions, there are a lot of local guides waiting around the Blue Hole that you can rent gear from. You can also pay them to guide you along the shallower parts of the Blue Hole so you can enjoy your sightseeing trip safely.
But that’s not what Yuri Lipski was after.
The Blue Hole’s stunning shallow parts hide the true thalassophobia-inducing horrors hidden beneath. This is no scenic spot for beginners but a 120-meter or 393 feet deep sinkhole that formed during the previous Ice Age. If you follow the descent of its near-vertical coral reef wall, it will take you to what divers call The Saddle and The Arch.
The Arch is the spooky side of the Blue Hole. This 25-meter or 85 feet long tunnel leads out to the sea where it drops sharply to nearly 1,00 meters or 3,300 feet into the oceanic abyss.
22-Year-Old Diving Instructor Yuri Lipski Recorded the Moments Leading Up to His Own Death
Witnesses who saw Yuri Lipski during his final moments on land say that he was fully geared up but lacking in two crucial things: a diving buddy and a second oxygen tank.
When it comes to outdoor activities like diving, where you’re likely to be isolated and unreachable by immediate help, it’s recommended that you take someone with you. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are and how “easy” it is. The risk of a freak accident is always there.
But Yuri Lipski may have believed he could make the descent on his own.
“I saw him a year before [he died]. He was like everybody else showing up around Dahab, and we hear it every day: ‘I want to do the Blue Hole’, regardless of experience, regardless of certifications,” A local diving instructor and guide said about Yuri Lipski, indicating that he may have been reckless and prone to overestimating his diving abilities.
His own father said he had made Yuri promise that he, and this is a direct quote, “won’t do any stupid things.”
Locals also say he had arrived in Dahab from Russia for a quick vacation and that he brought around 80 kilograms or 176 pounds of gear with him. Yuri is said to have gone to Tel-Aviv after arriving in Egypt to visit a local but he later circled back to Dahab saying he’ll go diving “Because it’s a beautiful, unique place in the world.”
The local instructor shared that he saw Yuri Lipski wandering around for roughly 30 to 40 minutes asking for an experienced diver to come with him. Yuri eventually found a different guide to go with him.
Yuri’s companion returned 15 to 20 minutes after they began the dive.
Yuri Lipski never made it back.
By the following day, Yuri’s father was in Dahab begging local divers to help him recover his son’s body. This would have been a risky affair. No one was sure how far Yuri Lipski had gone alone, let alone whether it would be safe to go as far as he did and swim with his body back to the surface.
“You’re taking a high risk.” The local diver who recovered Yuri Lipski’s body explained.
Yuri Lipski Took a Video of His Final Moments
When Yuri Lipski was finally found, he was discovered with a camera containing a recording of his last moments on Earth. The video is seven minutes long and was taken on April 8, 2000.
Let’s get one thing straight. Contrary to popular belief, Yuri Lipski did not capture his own death on video. That’s just spicy rumors. He only taped the last moments leading up to his death since the video cuts off before you actually see him die.
It shows Yuri Lipski descending down the Blue Hole with several other divers near him. This was, however, in the reefy lagoon section of the diving spot, nowhere near deep enough for people to avoid.
The deeper and further Yuri Lipski swims, though, the fewer people we see until it’s just Yuri. Alone. In blue water.
It’s almost as if he had separated from his diving companions and decided to make the descent on his own.
Soon enough, the reefs and fish disappear and all we see is the light from Yuri Lipski’s gear gleaming on the dark blue waters. Later, the video turns pitch black and we hear Yuri Lipski struggling to breathe.
Around the 5-minute mark, Yuri Lipski starts to scream. We can hear something beeping in the background, a warning sign of what’s to come as Yuri’s struggling breaths get shallower and more frequent.
You can also hear him struggle with his gear as he tries to drop the weight holding him down and float back to the surface. That, or he’s having convulsions or panicking as he removes his regulator.
The camera is facedown now, staring at the floor of the oceanic abyss as Yuri kicks up dirt in his fight to survive.
The video stops at around the seven-minute mark. Yuri Lipski is recovered roughly two days after his death.
What Really Happened to Yuri Lipski?: Oxygen Intoxication, Nitrogen Narcosis, or Recklessness?
So how exactly did Yuri Lipski die?
You might be thinking “Oh, it’s obvious he drowned to death.” divers communities have had differing thoughts on what ultimately killed Yuri Lipski. Many speculate that the 22-year-old died due to oxygen intoxication and nitrogen narcosis, both of which are common causes of death for divers who dive too fast, too deep.
Oxygen intoxication occurs when a person breathes in too much supplemental oxygen. You’ll likely understand it better by its other name, oxygen poisoning. This excess in oxygen wrecks lung tissue and fills the alveoli of the lungs with fluid, making it harder for the lungs to send oxygen to the bloodstream.
The suffocation it causes from inside the body impairs the central nervous system which leads to coughing, dizziness, confusion, and blurred vision.
Not exactly the best things to experience when you’re several hundred feet from the land and have no one else to help you.
Another suspect for Yuri Lipski’s death is nitrogen narcosis.
Like oxygen poisoning, nitrogen narcosis can affect your mental functioning. Scuba divers often experience this from breathing in compressed air from their tanks. It causes a drunken-like state that affects neuromuscular function and behavior in addition to altering consciousness.
Drunk and underwater. Another not-so-great thing to be when you’re that deep in the sea.
Whichever it was, what’s clear is that Yuri Lipski started to lose his grip. He could have inflated his buoyancy control device (BCD) to get himself back to the surface, but his mental state at the time may have made it difficult to do so. He may have also been too affected by either oxygen poisoning or nitrogen narcosis to even realize he should inflate his BCD.
But what truly killed Yuri Lipski may have been overeagerness.
Both his father and local divers seemed to recognize that he was a little too excited about diving into the Blue Hole and his own father seems to know, based on the comments he’s made, that Yuri Lipski was a little too overconfident.
Technical divers typically bring tanks that contain a mix of gasses to help counteract the effects of nitrogen narcosis at depths like that of the Blue Hole. As for Yuri, he brought a single oxygen tank and that was it.
Others believe that Yuri Lipski may have been trying to do a bounce dive.
According to a 2018 Worksafe technical bulletin, a bounce dive is a maneuver that involves a diver diving to depths shallower than 21 meters with less than 15 minutes surface intervals between consecutive dives.
There’s a risk to bounce diving, namely the possibility of decompression sickness which injures divers as they ascend due to rapidly decreasing pressure around them.
Given what we know about the circumstances of Yuri Lipski’s death and the days leading up to it though, the simpler answer is that overconfidence and recklessness killed him.
Excited by the idea of reaching the bottom of the Blue Hole in Dahab, Yuri Lipski descended too far, too fast, and alone with only one oxygen tank. That’s after having only been to the Blue Hole once in the year before his death.
Yuri Lipski’s death, though sad, is a reminder for us adventurer lovers to not overestimate our abilities when we’re literally going up against forces of nature.
To this day, the Blue Hole in Dahab remains the world’s deadliest diving site. In the past decade, over 150 to 200 divers have met their watery ends in its blue embrace. Its deceptive beauty has earned it the nickname “Diver’s Cemetery“.
Yuri Lipski isn’t the only famous death at the Blue Hole. Stephen Keenan, a 36-year-old Irish diver died at the Blue Hole while saving Alessia Zechinni who was a freediving world record holder.
Tarek Omar, a local diver, is still recovering the bodies of dead divers at the Blue Hole to this day. Ironically, it was legends of a young woman who draws people to their untimely deaths that lured him to the Blue Hole.
These days, it’s the ghost of Yuri Lipski, one of the many divers he’s recovered over the years, that accompanies him on his dives.