Juries return 10 verdicts of death by natural causes, nine by misadventure and one by suicide
Acting Magistrate Eileen Nervik conducted 20 inquests in a five-week period from 8 October through 9 November. Three other inquests scheduled had to be postponed because witnesses were off-island.
She was serving as Queen’s Coroner.
Four of the inquests concerned residents in road accidents. They ranged in age from 18 to 39. Eight inquests involved visitors engaged in water sports. The youngest of these was 50; three others were in their 60s and three more in their early 70s.
Seven inquests took place in Cayman Brac and these are reported separately.
The Coroners Law requires an inquest in sudden deaths that occur in unusual circumstances. The purpose of an inquest is to provide a procedure through which the way the deceased died may be publicly determined, the coroner said in her opening statements to the various juries. An inquest satisfies the community that the death will not be overlooked. The jury’s role is to determine whether such death came about by natural causes, such as the progression of disease; misadventure, an action or omission deliberately undertaken, which then goes wrong; suicide, a voluntary act undertaken for the purpose of destroying one’s own life while one is conscious of what one is doing. If evidence is insufficient to reach a conclusion, the verdict will be open.
WENDY BUCKNER, 50. Ms Buckner was a visitor from Canada. She developed a sudden onset of breathlessness and became unresponsive after talking part in the Flowers Sea Swim on 19 June, 2010. Dr. Shravana Jyoti, head of the Pathology Department at George Town Hospital, explained an autopsy report to the court. He said swimming is a strenuous activity and the amount of blood required by the heart is many times what it would require during normal activity. In Ms Buckner’s case, her right coronary artery was almost totally blocked by cholesterol deposits and the left artery was also occluded, meaning that in both instances the volume of blood carried was reduced. He described the physical cause of death as acute coronary insufficiency due to coronary artery disease. The jury adopted this finding and returned a verdict of natural causes.
JORGE ALBERTO MARTINEZ-CALIX, 25. Mr. Martinez was found hanging from the branch of a breadfruit tree outside his residence on the night of 30 April, 2011. The jury heard evidence that he was concerned about his job and his relationship with his wife was strained.
Mr. Jyoti reported cause of death as asphyxiation. The doctor confirmed there were no signs of defence wounds suggestive of injuries during an assault or struggle and no blunt trauma injury to the head. The jury returned a verdict of suicide, with the state of mind being one of depression and emotional distress.
NOEL NATHANIEL EBANKS, 70. Mr. Ebanks was seen backing out of his driveway in West Bay and colliding with a concrete structure. He got out of the car and spoke with a person at the scene, collapsing soon afterwards. Mr. Jyoti said the accident was minor and did not appear to contribute to the death. He reported that Mr. Ebanks had significant enlargement of the heart, which weighed 710 grams as compared to the normal weight of 350 grams. He had been taking medication for his heart and for hypertension. The jury adopted heart disease as the physical cause of death and returned a verdict of natural causes.
MICHAEL GEORGE PITTER, 33. An electrical assistant, Mr. Pitter was working alone at the West Bay Heritage Village on the night of 16 November, 2010. His employer, Bridgelal Ramoutar, said he did not send Mr. Pitter there, as the company did not have a contract for the work.
Evidence summarised in the autopsy report indicated that Mr. Pitter was using a metal fish tape to pull a wire from a main panel box that was temporarily connected to a main distribution panel. The metal tape apparently came in contact with the energised electric panel, completing the circuit of current and causing the fatal incident. Mr. Jyoti said Mr. Pitter had a burn injury on his right wrist and left index finger and the physical cause of death was low voltage electrocution. The jury adopted this finding and returned a verdict of misadventure.
JOHN BONNER, 64. A scuba diver from Pennsylvania, Mr. Bonner experienced difficulties and lost consciousness while boarding a vessel after diving of East End on 10 August, 2011. Witnesses said the first dive of the morning went OK; on the second dive, however, Mr. Bonner did not complete his safety stop but swam to the boat ladder. There he complained of not feeling well. Staff got him aboard and performed CPR.
Mr. Jyoti said the autopsy showed that Mr. Bonner had an acute cardiac event in the water. His medical history included a chronic kidney condition and hypertension, both of which he was taking medications for. The jury returned a verdict of natural causes.
GEORGE ARTHUR EDEN, 48. An accountant with Cayman Airways, Mr. Eden was at work on 13 August, 2011, when he felt sick with chest pain associated with nausea. He went home but was then taken by ambulance to hospital, where he died while being treated.
Mr. Jyoti said the post mortem examination showed no violence or trauma. The immediate cause of death was acute myocardial infarction as a result of occlusive coronary artery disease, Mr. Jyoti summarised. The jury’s verdict was death by natural causes.
Inquests into the deaths of David MacGregor, 30, by misadventure, and of John O’Sullivan, 54, by natural causes, were reported in the Caymanian Compass on 22 October.
SAMIR FAWZY RIZK, 71. A passenger on the cruise ship Carnival Valor, Mr. Rizk took a boat trip aboard Morning Dream to Stingray City around 11.30am. He had complained of nausea on the way. On arrival, he and friends entered the water, interacted and took photos with stingrays. Although a good swimmer Mr. Rizk was not an experienced snorkeller. He chose to enter the water without a life vest. Passengers subsequently saw crew of Island Pride lift Mr. Rizk out of the water. He was given CPR and transported to shore, where an ambulance met him and took him to hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2.47pm.
Pathologist Cheryl Reichert cited physical cause of death as drowning attributed to cardiac arrhythmia due to myocardial ischemia and loss of consciousness while snorkelling. The jury returned a verdict of natural causes.
MARLEE BENT, 65. In the early hours of 3 February, 2012, Mrs. Bent’s son heard her gasping for breath at their home in West Bay. He shook her and held her up as instructed by a 911 operator. Paramedics attended and worked on her, then transported her to hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Mr. Jyoti said cause of death was hypoxia due to obstructive sleep apnea. Hypoxia is lack of oxygen and apnea is cessation or disturbance of breathing, he explained. The jury returned a verdict of death by natural causes.
PATRICIA ELLEN DEVER, 70. A resident of Texas and a scuba diver for more than 25 years, Ms Dever was on holiday with family members, arriving 25 February, 2012. On 1 March the group of four went diving with two instructors aboard Living the Dream. She went to a depth of 77 feet and afterwards complained of pain everywhere and being unable to breathe. The crew tried to assist her breathing but were unsuccessful.
Mr. Jyoti said she was on medication for hypothyroidism. Tears in the lungs and gas bubbles in the heart were signs of pulmonary barotrauma, which was related to her rapid ascent. This in turn was probably due to cardiac complications relating to her hyperthyroid state. The jury’s verdict was death by misadventure.
BRANDON CHAUNCEY POWERY, 18. The teen was riding a motorcycle and was involved in a front-impact crash with an SUV on Town Hall Road, West Bay, in the daylight hours of 26 June, 2011. Witnesses said he was speeding and in the process of overtaking vehicles before colliding with an SUV that had been coming from the opposite direction. He was thrown on top of the SUV and then landed on the ground. Mr. Jyoti said death was caused by blunt force trauma to the chest and abdomen, resulting in loss of blood and spinal cord injury. The jury’s verdict was misadventure.
RICHARD ALUTAYA RIVERA, 39. A Filipino on work permit, Mr. Rivera was a highly valued employee. After attending a party in George Town, he was driving east on Shamrock Road after 1am on 23 December, 2011, when he hit a palm tree. Estimated speed was between 80-90mph in a 40- mile zone. Lab analysis showed a blood/alcohol reading of .163, which is over the legal limit of .100. An autopsy revealed severe blunt force trauma to the abdomen, chest and head, including skull fractures. The jury returned a verdict of misadventure.
The jury’s role is to determine whether a sudden death came about by natural causes, such as the progression of disease; misadventure, an action or omission deliberately undertaken which then goes wrong; suicide, a voluntary act undertaken for the purpose of destroying one’s own life while one is conscious of what one is doing. If evidence is insufficient to reach a conclusion, the verdict will be an open one.