A Design Inspired by Death: A Self-Inflating Vest for Freedivers

Screen Shot 2012-10-26 at 11.37.29 AMJacob Beck-Jaffurs. Photo: Professional Pathways

On Friday, March 11, 2011, 24-year-old freediver Jacob Beck-Jaffurs was found unconscious on the ocean floor by a dive partner off the coast of Kawera Island, New Zealand. He had been spearfishing when he suffered a shallow water blackout and drowned. His friend brought him to the surface and administered CPR, but it was too late. He was pronounced dead on shore near Pilot Bay, about nine miles away. "The world has just lost a wonderful young man who would have made a great doctor," his father told the New Zealand Herald.

Screen Shot 2012-10-26 at 11.36.08 AMRevival Vest. Photo: James Dyson Award

Beck-Jaffurs died on the final day of a six-week internship at Tauranga Hospital while in the last year of medical school at Auckland University. He was an experienced surfer and freediver and in excellent shape, according to his mother. Aside from spending time in the ocean and in medical school, he had co-founded a non-profit called Professional Pathways that sought to give poor students with fewer opportunities mentoring so they could chase careers in medicine, engineering, and law. In short, he was an active and inspiring young man who did what he could to help others.

After his death, a friend set about designing an auto-inflating vest for freedivers to honor him. The James Dyson Award has nominated 22-year-old James McNab's invention as one of 15 finalists in its 2012 design competition. The winner will be announced on November 8.

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