Cause of diving drowning unknown

A coroner has ruled as accidental the death of a British nurse who died while diving off West Bay but said why the accident occurred may never be known.

Tina Baxter, 47, from Colne in Lancaster, died on 19 January while on a two-week holiday in Grand Cayman with her mother Sylvia.

An inquest in Burnley, Lancaster, on Monday was told that Ms Baxter, a hospital matron, who had done about 100 dives over seven years, had joined a morning diving trip from Don Foster’s Dive Shop in George Town

Coroner Richard Taylor said that the death of Ms Baxter, who was certified as a rescue and open water diver, was accidental.

‘She was well-trained and healthy but inexplicably got into difficulty when the equipment was working perfectly,’ he said.

‘Diving by its very nature is an inherently dangerous sport and it seems to me that she fell ill and needed to get up to the surface quickly.

“I just think we will never know exactly what happened. I have little alternative other than to say her death was purely accidental.’

No one from Cayman attended the inquest, but statements were read from the diving instructor, an RCIPS detective constable, and the Department of Environment Assistant Director Scott Slaybaugh.

Mr. Slaybaugh’s statement confirmed that Ms Baxter’s diving equipment had been checked following the accident and was found to be in good working order.

The inquest also heard testimony from fellow diver Donald Attridge who helped Ms Baxter to the surface after she started to struggle at a depth of 74 feet.

According to a report in Ms Baxter’s local newspaper, the Burnley and Pendle Citizen, Mr. Attridge told the court: ‘I noticed Tina was not there, so I turned round at this point. She was in a vertical position and it looked as if she was having difficulty breathing, so I went close to her mask and asked if she wanted to go up and she said yes.

‘I inflated my buoyancy device to take us both up at the same rate. At this point we were both breathing and we went up at a reasonable rate. She still had her regulator in her mouth when we started the ascent.’

The court heard it took the pair about a minute to surface, by which time the regulator was no longer in place. Mr. Attridge said he could not say at what point the regulator came out of Ms Baxter’s mouth.

Ms Baxter was given CPR and medical attention in the dive boat, the inquest was told, but she never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

A post-mortem carried out in Cayman determined the cause of death as asphyxiation due to drowning.

The inquest was held in UK rather than in Cayman because when a body is repatriated to England or Wales, a coroner will hold an inquest if the death is violent, unnatural, or sudden or if the cause is unknown.

Officer manager Isabelle Yeo at Don Foster’s said the dive operator had no comment to make on the inquest outcome.

Ms Baxter’s death was the first of five watersports-related deaths in Grand Cayman this year.

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