A coroner’s Court jury hearing evidence about the 2006 death of retired East End seaman Edward Leroy Watson – known as Captain Leroy – returned a verdict of death by misadventure Thursday.
The court heard that on 11 April, 2006, Capt. Leroy, 77, had been fishing with a friend, Mariza Marin Morales.
After returning her home after 1.30pm, he was last seen alive sometime after 2.30pm, walking through knee high water near his boat with his catch of four barracuda.
In a statement read to the court, Samuel Rankine said he had been at the East End Public Dock at around 1pm when he saw Capt. Leroy’s boat drifting about 25 feet from shore. Another man at the dock went to the captain’s house to tell him the boat was drifting, but he returned saying no one was home. But he said he saw something odd – barracudas floating in the ocean where the captain would usually clean his catch.
Mr. Rankine later tried to call Capt. Leroy, but both his numbers rang out. As he was getting ready to go to work, Mr. Rankine said he heard a voice yelling from the beach for someone to call the police.
He ran to the beach, where Donovan Dixon was in a boat. Mr. Dixon said he had seen a body in the water and Mr. Rankine told him it had to be Capt. Leroy. They took the boat out about 60 feet, where they found Capt. Leroy floating in the water. His face and foot had turned purple and Mr. Rankine said he thought it was too late to perform CPR.
In a statement, Herman Junior Christian said he had been boating past Capt. Leroy’s house at about 2.30pm, when he saw the captain walking in the water toward his boat. He asked Leroy what he had caught and he said he got four barracudas. That was the last he saw of the captain; he later heard he had been found dead in the water.
Another man, Dwight Bodden, also saw the captain at around the same time, according to his statement. He said Leroy had been sitting in his cabana on the beach in front of his house as Mr. Bodden boated past. He waved to him and the captain rose to wave back, he said. ‘When I saw Captain Leroy, he did not look as if he was in any problem,’ Mr. Bodden said.
An autopsy report listed the cause of death as drowning and noted that the deceased had no known history of cardiac problems. It found no evidence of internal or external injuries.
Queen’s Coroner Margaret Ramsay-Hale said the problem for the jury was that no-one was present to see what happened to the captain. ‘Essentially, he is there one moment and gone the next,’ she said.
But, she pointed out, all of the evidence suggested that he drowned. She told the jury that they had three verdicts open to them – death by suicide; death by natural causes; or death by misadventure. If they could not deliver any of these verdicts they were bound to return an open verdict, she explained.
It took the jury less than 10 minutes to return its death by misadventure verdict.