A coroner’s inquest into the death of American tourist John O’Sullivan took place on Friday, 12 October, with the jury returning a verdict of death by natural causes after the deceased got into trouble during a commercial scuba dive.
Mr. O’Sullivan, 54, and a tourist visiting from Texas, died after becoming distressed on a dive to the Kittiwake on 23 November, 2011 in Grand Cayman. He had a history of medical problems and was on medication for coronary artery disease and hypertension. Mr. O’Sullivan also recently had undergone surgery to place a stent into a blocked artery.
During an inquest, a jury of six people decide whether the individual died by natural causes, suicide, misadventure or deliver an open verdict. Inquests are conducted anytime there is a sudden death in the Cayman Islands.
The jurors heard from several witnesses and written statements including the testimony of Detective Constable Nathan Turner, who said on the day he was notified that a male had drowned while diving and had been taken to the West Bay Dock. Upon arrival he was told that the man had been taken by ambulance.
Mr. O’Sullivan had been diving with his daughter that day and had ascended rapidly from about 30 feet beneath the surface for no apparent reason, according to Mr. Turner, who got his information directly from crew members of Don Foster’s Diving. The court heard that Mr. O’Sullivan was on six or seven medications for illnesses. He was described as an experienced diver, who had dived the Kittiwake wreck site before.
The look out aboard the Don Foster’s 48 foot dive vessel, Cayman Sky, told the officer that he saw Mr. O’Sullivan surface at which time he was shouting loudly. The crew member dived into the water to assist Mr. O’Sullivan.
Once he got to his aid, he said he did not feel good and started to vomit in the water. Once taken to the back of the dive boat, Mr. O’Sullivan was said to have passed out.
Health Services Authority Pathologist Dr. Shravana Jyohti testified that after an autopsy that was conducted on 25 November, 2011, the cause of death was determined to be a aortic stenosis or narrowing of the aortic wall, which started a chain of events that caused heart failure.
There was no link between Mr. O’Sullivan’s demise and the diving equipment that he used on the day, according to Dive Specialist for the Department of Environment Scott Slaybough.
After hearing further testimony from Mr. O’Sullivan’s wife and daughter, the jury returned a verdict of death by natural causes.