Off-duty police officer died from natural causes, inquest finds
An off-duty police officer died from a heart attack while scuba diving off Grand Cayman last year, a coroner’s jury has heard.
Chris Devereux, 54, was diving off Sunset House, close to the famous underwater statue of a mermaid, when his buddy found him slumped over the coral reef with his regulator out of his mouth and his mask floating nearby.
Mr. Devereux, from Liverpool in the UK, was a member of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service drug and serious crime task force. A jury ruled he died of natural causes at an inquest last Tuesday.
He had been diving with a police colleague, Richard Connolly, on 10 September, 2012, when the incident happened.
Mr. Connolly said the pair were around 35 minutes into their dive and were heading back toward the mermaid when he noticed Mr. Devereux was no longer with him. He searched the immediate surrounding area before making a controlled ascent to look for his colleague on the surface.
“He was nowhere to be seen. I began to descend again, thinking Chris would be circling around looking for me,” said Mr. Connolly in a statement read at the hearing by Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervick.
“I saw an outline of something 25 feet away. I went to investigate and I could see it was a diver. He did not appear to be moving … at first I thought he was looking at a fish.
“As I got closer, I realised it was Chris and he had no mouthpiece in. I was telling myself not to panic. He had a blue, purplish tinge to his face.”
Mr. Connolly said he had pulled his colleague to the surface and shouted for help while attempting to give rescue breaths. A dive instructor from Sunset House kayaked to the scene and helped drag Mr. Devereux to one of the company’s boats.
Mr. Devereux continued to receive CPR from dive staff and later from paramedics on the shore, but he was pronounced dead upon arrival at Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town.
Pathologist Shravana Jyoti said Mr. Devereux, who was on medication for high blood pressure and had a family history of heart disease, had suffered an “acute cardiac event” during the dive.
He said the victim may have suffered a heart attack earlier in the day and not realised. The effect of that attack was likely to have been magnified by the “heavy, strenuous exercise” of scuba diving, leading to his death, the pathologist said.
It is not clear that the heart attack would have killed Mr. Devereux, had he not been diving, and the effects of drowning were listed as a secondary cause of death.
“He could not come out of the water, so he succumbed to this cardiac event,” Dr. Jyoti said.
In his autopsy report, the doctor stated that a “probable panic attack” and “breath holding” may have been contributory factors. He lists “signs of hypertensive heart disease” and “signs of terminal open water submission” as part of his diagnosis.
The equipment Mr. Devereux used during the dive was examined by an expert from the Department of Environment, Scott Slaybaugh, and was found to be in good working condition, the jury was told.