Gene “Whitner” Milner, died at the young age of 25 in his family’s swimming pool from Shallow Water Blackout. His death was caused by breath-holding or hypoxic training. Whitner had been intrigued by the sport of spear fishing and had begun practicing breath-holding to increase his free diving time. He was able to hold his breath for over 3 minutes. He was also a strong swimmer and in fabulous condition as one can see by his photographs. In fact, Whitner thought with perseverance and determination he could accomplish anything, and he just about did (see his obituary in The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) April 20, 2011).
The day Whitner died he was full of joy and happiness. He had spent the day at the Atlanta Steeplechase with his friends and little sister, Scottie. Following the steeplechase a group of his friends and his sister’s friends came back to his parent’s house to cool off and enjoy the pool and hot tub. The group were swimming laps, racing each other and competing to see who could hold their breath the longest.
The last anyone remembers seeing Whitner is when friends were getting out of the pool around 10:30 to 11 pm that evening. The pool lights were not on and his friends were coming and going. Whitner likely tried to hold his breath one last time unnoticed by those around the pool. He experienced shallow water blackout and passed out in the water without any forewarning sinking directly to the bottom of the pool. His friends thought that he had gone inside to call his girlfriend, Laura Dobrosky, who was out of town. Several people were by the pool during the day collecting towels and personal items, but never saw him at the bottom of the pool showing how difficult it can be to detect a drowning. He was not found until the following Sunday evening around 7:45 pm by his mother because she went out to turn off lights by the pool.