Death highlights boat law gap

No regulation of boat operators and alcohol consumption, Coroner’s Jury hears

David
Alexander Anderson, 27, died by misadventure, a Coroner’s Jury determined on
Monday after hearing evidence last week about a private boat trip in the North
Sound in 2007.

A post
mortem examination showed propeller injuries to Mr. Anderson’s head and
extremities, including a skull fracture. 

Unconscious

 Government Pathologist Shavana
Jyoti told the court that people who receive injuries sufficient to cause a
skull fracture are rendered unconscious by that injury.

He said it
was most likely that Mr. Anderson experienced drowning while unconscious from
the head injury.

Mr. Jyoti
was commenting on the written report of Dr. John Heidingsfelder, government
pathologist in 2007.

He said the
examination showed an accumulation of fluid in the lungs and congestion, which
would be due to drowning.

Usually two
to three minutes in water without inhaling air is sufficient to cause
unconsciousness, with death soon after, Mr. Jyoti said.
 

Alcohol in
the blood can shorten the time of drowning.

The level of
alcohol in Mr. Anderson’s blood was .169, which is more than the prescribed
limit for driving a car, Mr. Jyoti noted. In general, at that level, a person’s
sense of balance would be disturbed.

Events
detailed

Events
leading to Mr. Anderson’s death were detailed by four of his colleagues from the
Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands:
marine surveyors Angus McLean, Peter Domladis, Peter Southgate and John-Kaare
Aune, who was the owner of the boat.

They said
the outing on 27 September, 2007, was partly to celebrate Mr. Anderson’s
successful examinations to qualify as a marine surveyor.

The day
included a visit to the Sand Bar and then a stop at The Kaibo, a
marine/restaurant/bar.

The incident
leading to Mr. Anderson’s death occurred on the way home from the Kaibo.

Afterwards,
Mr. Aune identified himself to investigating officer Orlando Mason, who
requested a specimen of blood, breath or urine for testing.

Mr. Mason
told Queen’s Coroner Valdis Foldats and the jury that Mr. Aune agreed to provide
it, but then Mr. McLean challenged him as to what authority he had to make the
request.

Mr. Mason
agreed he had no power to require it; that was why he requested it.

As a result
of the exchange, no testing was done.

No
law

The coroner
asked if there is any law against consuming alcohol while driving a boat and, if
so, is there a legal limit.

Mr. Mason
said there is none.

Crown
Counsel Kenneth Ferguson, who was present to assist, confirmed that was correct.

He suggested
that the inquest could assist legislators in considering the drafting of

appropriate legislation.

The coroner
reminded the jurors several times that an inquest is not a trial; its purpose is
“to get as many facts as possible into the public domain.”

For that
reason, jurors could ask questions and he could allow anyone present to ask
questions.

Marine
surveyors

Attorney
Anthony Akiwumi was present to ask questions on behalf of the marine surveyors.

Neville
Scott, Mr. Anderson’s brother-in-law, also questioned several
witnesses.

In his
summing up, the coroner thanked all who had asked questions.

When facts
are exposed, government entities and individuals are able to make informed
decisions, he pointed out.

The jurors’
task was to determine the physical cause of death and how death was brought
about — whether by natural causes, misadventure or suicide.

If they
found evidence insufficient to reach a conclusion, the verdict would remain
open.

He said it
was not the jurors’ responsibility to agree on a detailed narrative of what
happened that night.

The evidence
included tape recordings of 911 distress calls received during the
incident.

Boat
occupants

The
occupants of the boat gave evidence, which indicated that at the time the
incident occurred, Mr. McLean was sitting at the front of the boat, Mr.
Southgate just in front of the driving console and Mr. Domladis at the stern.

Evidence was
that at the time of the incident Mr. Anderson and Mr. Aune, the boat’s owner,
were standing together at the centre console. Mr. Anderson was on the same side
as the steering wheel and Mr. Aune was on the same side as the throttle.

As the boat
began to speed up, Mr. McLean said it felt as if the boat sheared violently to
the right and he went left.

He said he
knew he would not be able to stay on board, so he jumped as far as possible away
from the boat.

Mr.
Southgate said the boat moved violently, as if it hit something or went over a
wave.

He saw Mr.
McLean bouncing and then disappear overboard. He expected the boat to stop, but
when he turned around Mr. Anderson and Mr. Aune were not there and the throttle
was still engaged.

He managed
to move to the helm station and hit the kill switch.

Mr. Domladis
said he saw Mr. Anderson and Mr. Aune fall overboard almost simultaneously, one
to the left and one to the right. He jumped into the sea in an attempt to help
them.

Mr. Anderson
was found floating face downward, but he and Mr. Aune attempted to administer
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as they kept him afloat and shouted to make contact
with the boat.

Mr. McLean
was the first to re-board the boat; he and Mr. Southgate searched for the others
by starting and stopping the engine, then shouting and
listening.

Mr. Aune
said he and Mr. Anderson had taken turns driving the boat that day. They were
standing side by side.

After having
a couple of drinks at Kaibo, he wanted to get home before dark. He estimated
they left Kaibo around 6.30 to 7pm.

At the time
of the incident, he said, he could not remember who had his hand on the steering
wheel. Asked if he remembered who had his hand on the throttle, he replied he
could not remember, but from what other people had said, he believed he was
standing on that side and would normally be in control when bringing the boat up
to plane.

They were
leaving very slowly and then he began going faster.

The next
thing he remembered was waking up in the water. 

Various
people gave evidence concerning consumption of alcohol by the men on the boat.

Bar
bill

The bar bill
showed 15 mojitos, seven beers and a Strong Bull. The bartender recalled three
rounds of mojitos but not the beers, saying they might have been to go.

She did not
know if drinks were being shared by others not in the men’s party, but said
nothing was put on the bill unless they ordered it and they could have ordered
it for someone else.

There were
beer bottles and cans on the boat. The men took a couple of six packs on board,
but also agreed that they had teased Mr. Aune for not having cleaned the boat
after his last trip.

Mr. Domladis
added that, after their vessel met other vessels at the Sand Bar, Mr. Anderson
was in the water and would come over to dump beer bottles on the boat as if it
were a trash bag.

Marine
officer Shawn Bodden told the court about his inspection of the boat, a 21-foot rigid inflatable.

He said the
sides of the vessel were about knee-high.

He was asked
to comment on the way such a boat would respond in various scenarios, such as
hitting a buoy or digging into the trough of a wave or travelling in the wake of
another vessel.

He noted the
vessel had the correct number of life jackets on board, but no flares
or
searchlight.

The coroner
asked if there is any law against consuming alcohol while driving a boat and, if
so, is there a legal limit. Mr. Mason said there is
none.

 

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