Jury decides death of diver was from natural causes

Visitor had probable ‘acute cardiac event’ underwater

A Coroner’s Jury returned a verdict of death by natural causes after hearing that scuba diver Martin Richard Linley had a number of health-related issues when he and his wife came from California to Cayman for a vacation in December 2009. 

Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik conducted the inquest last month. Evidence included the fact that Mr. Linley, 51, was taking seven different medications for conditions that included diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.  

 

Heart enlarged 

Government pathologist Shravana Jyoti told the court that Mr. Linley’s heart was enlarged, weighing 450 grams when the normal weight would be 300-350 grams. He had a mild form of heart attack two years previously. 

Mr. Jyoti said persons with these medical conditions were prone to get an acute cardiac event and the probability increased when a person was under stress, extremely tired or engaged in such exercise as scuba diving.  

The work load on the heart is increased, he explained, and the heart needs more and more nutrients in the form of increased blood supply. 

But this may not happen after a certain point because of blocked blood vessels or hypertension.  

The heart beat may become irregular and stop, Mr. Jyoti indicated.  

If this happened in 60 feet of water (the depth Mr. Linley was at), his reported rapid ascent to the surface would have caused acute injury to his lungs. 

 

No trauma 

The doctor noted that Mr. Linley was six feet one inch tall and weighed 191 pounds. His body showed no evidence of trauma or violence. 

Dive instructor Jean-Charles Jenssen said he checked Mr. Linley’s certification and noted he was a dive master certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. On the Saturday before the boat trip, Mr. Jenssen said he was taking a student for a shore dive and Mr. Linley asked if he could come along. “I observed he was a good diver,” Mr. Jenssen said. 

The boat dive took place on Monday, 7 December.  

 

He was happy 

In a written statement, Elizabeth Jane Linley said her husband was “happy and eager to go and seemed healthy”.  

She had been feeling sick, so she was put with an instructor as her dive buddy; her husband also had a buddy, but she didn’t know who.  

She noted they usually went diving twice per year, but this was their first diving trip for the year. 

 

Rapid ascent 

Evidence was that Mr. Linley was in the water about 20 minutes at 80 feet. He started experiencing problems and then made a rapid ascent from 60 feet. He was removed from the water dazed and confused. He began vomiting, then collapsed. Resuscitation efforts were not successful. 

The jury accepted Mr. Jyoti’s conclusion as to physical cause of death; expansile lung injury as a consequence to barotrauma while scuba diving, due to probable acute 
cardiac event.