Swimmer dies after Flowers event

Flowers Sea Swim organisers are
hoping one of the most popular annual events in the Cayman Islands is not
affected by the death of a Canadian swimmer after the race on 19 June.

Wendy Louise Buckner, 50, died
shortly after completing the one-mile ocean swim. The official cause of death
has not been released, though it is thought that she may have suffered a major
organ failure. Police said they do not consider her death suspicious.

Ms Buckner had just crossed the
finish line when Red Cross personnel noticed her in distress. They quickly
attended to her and transported her to George Town Hospital.

“The cause of death is yet to be
determined, as the autopsy was done yesterday (21 June),” said Greg Hoeksema,
hospital medical director. “In mass participation events like the Flowers swim,
you hope these things don’t happen. Unfortunately they do sometimes, and it is
usually at the finish line. Persons at the finish line are carefully trained to
look for things most people wouldn’t notice. That happened in this case, and
she was carried promptly to the hospital by staff present.

Though “in this case she was an
exceptional, high-level athlete who was used to swimming outdoors in the heat”,
Dr. Hoeksema said he did not find the case unusual because of similar cases
with other athletes.

Ms Buckner, of Winnipeg, had
competed in the event in the past, and last year participated in the Pirates
Week 5K Sea Swim. She had also taken part in a number of open water swims prior
to competing in the Flowers swim.

More than 770 swimmers participated
in this year’s event. Though the swimmers were all in the water at the same
time, they were separated into groups according to skill level.

Dara Flowers-Burke, the daughter of
event founder Frankie Flowers Snr and one of the main organizers of the race,
said the death should not overshadow all of the uplifting aspects of the event.

“In the 18 years we’ve put on the
event, we’ve seen over 10,000 swimmers and in that time it has been flawless,”
Ms Flowers-Burke said. “It is such an unfortunate thing to happen with such a
positive event. She was quite a prolific swimmer, she loved to swim, and our
condolences go out to the family.

“It was a good, clean event this
year, as always and was a good family atmosphere.”

Dr. Hoeksema said, “Going
forward, I’d urge anyone that is going to participate in mass events like the
Flowers swim to consult a physician first.”