The chief mate of a tugboat died after suffering multiple, horrific injuries when he was struck by the boat’s propeller after diving overboard to untangle a rope from a mooring buoy, an inquest heard on Wednesday.
Crewmates of Cuban national Ramon Alvarez told how his body was “butchered with cuts” in the accident close to George Town harbour in October 2010.
Alexis Perigo, who leapt overboard in an effort to save his colleague, said he had “exploded in panic” when he saw the extent of his friend’s injuries.
Several crew members testified that the chief mate had become visibly tired during the swim and had slipped under water close to the back of the boat, near the propellers.
A coroner’s jury yesterday recorded a verdict of death by misadventure on Mr. Alvarez, who was 59. Witnesses testified he had voluntarily dived into the ocean to try and untangle the rope.
An autopsy report, read to the jury by pathologist Dr. Shravana Jyoti, gave the cause of death as “multiple propeller injuries”, including a sharp cut to the neck.
Members of the all-Cuban crew of the Point of Sand tug-boat said they believed Mr. Alvarez was dead before he resurfaced. The tug-boat, which pulls a barge carrying supplies between Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands, was returning from a trip to Cayman Brac when the accident happened on 16 October, 2010.
When the crew tried to tie up to a mooring buoy, owned by parent company Thompson Shipping, they noticed the line was tangled, preventing them from securing the boat.
Several crew members gave evidence in statements read to the court by Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik that Mr. Alvarez had jumped in the water and hooked a rope to the line to allow the tug boat to pull it free.
As he was swimming back to the boat crew members said he was visibly tiring and let go of the safety line he had been thrown and slipped under water.
Both Mr. Perigo and captain Juan Marin, who were present for the hearing on Wednesday, jumped overboard in an effort to help him.
Mr. Perigo said: “I dived under and saw that he was coming up, so I assisted him in coming out of the water.
“This is when I exploded in panic. He was pouring blood with a lot of cuts on his neck and arm. His right leg was basically severed.”
Mr. Marin said he had swum over to assist, but it was too late.
“I saw a big cut on his neck. I knew right away that he was dead.”
Mr. Marin said he had initially asked Mr. Perigo to attempt to untangle the line but the able seaman had declined, saying he didn’t feel up to the challenge.
Before he could issue a further order, he said Mr. Alvarez had removed his shirt, shorts and cap and jumped in.
Another crew member, Miguel Pedroso Campbell, testified that the engine was in neutral and the propellers switched off. But he said it takes some time for them to stop rotating.
Dr. Jyoto said in his report, Mr. Alvarez’s wounds were “sharp and blunt force cut injuries, consistent with motor boat propeller injuries.”
He concluded: “The manner of death in this unfortunate chief mate of the boat is listed as an accident.”
It took the jury of four women and three men around 10 minutes to deliver a verdict of death by misadventure.