Scuba diver had enlarged heart

A cruise ship passenger who drowned while diving in Cayman had an enlarged heart a Coroner’s Jury heard during an inquest on 19 October.

The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure in the case of John Gilbert Freemyer, 52, who died 1 March, 2005.

Government pathologist Dr. John Heidingsfelder assisted the court with comments on the autopsy report of Dr. Garfield Blake, who performed the post mortem examination.

The presence of a lot of water in the lungs and foamy matter in the airways indicated drowning, he said.

Dr. Heidingsfelder described Mr. Freemyer as 6-feet, 5-inches and 250 pounds. His heart was about twice the normal weight due to the thickening of the wall of the left ventricle.

Dr. Heidingsfelder said it was possible Mr. Freemyer’s heart may have potentially impacted the drowning. ‘He would not have had the energy reserve of a normal person and diving can be a strenuous activity,’ he said.

There were no signs of violence on the body.

Mrs. Margaret Ramsay-Hale read a statement from Mrs. Mary Freemyer, who said she and her husband came to Cayman aboard the Carnival Miracle. Mr. Freemyer was fine the night before. He was an advanced certified diver. She did not dive, so she went on an undersea adventure tour while he went diving.

Mr. Robert Nelson, who worked for Don Foster’s Dive, told the court there was the captain, himself and another crew member plus 14 divers on the trip.

The first dive was at Sand Chutes off Caribbean Club. The captain and other crew member took the divers to the front of the boat, where they submerged. Mr. Nelson said he was the safety person on board.

Toward the end of the dive, about 15-20 minutes, he heard voices at the front of the boat. He found a husband and wife who had surfaced, the wife having a nose bleed. He had her swim to the back of the boat with her husband and he assisted her out of the water.

As he did so, he noticed something yellow two or three feet under the water to the left of the boat. He realised it was a diver, so he jumped in. When he reached the diver, he inflated the man’s buoyancy control device, which acted like a life jacket.

The man’s regulator was not in his mouth and he was unconscious.

Mr. Nelson said he took off the man’s weight belt and mask and dragged him to the boat. He asked the male customer to help get him on board. He did not feel a pulse so he gave two rescue breaths. The customer knew CPR, so he took over while Mr. Nelson called headquarters on the radio. Then he got the emergency kit and continued chest compressions.

He asked the woman on board to bang on the ladder with a lead weight to attract the other divers to come to the surface. CPR continued as the divers boarded.

Mr. Nelson’s group was on the Cayman Sky. The Cayman Wall came alongside and someone jumped on board to assist so the captain could get ready to head to shore. Mr. Nelson did the head count to make sure they had all their guests.

He tried to find out who was the man’s diving buddy. One man said he was. He said he and the injured diver did not know each other before the trip. This person, who was not identified, told Mr. Nelson that the man had said he wanted to head back and up.

They were making their way back to the boat when they somehow got separated. So the buddy went back to the group and continued the dive.

The boat arrived at the Atlantis dock and paramedics came on board with their equipment. Shortly afterwards, they decided to remove him by stretcher to an ambulance.

The coroner also read a statement from Mr. Keith Neal, who said he examined the dive equipment worn by Mr. Freemyer, including tank, regulator and buoyancy compensation device.

Mr. Neale said that, as rental equipment, it was remarkably well maintained.

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