Coroner’s Jury returns verdict of misadventure
An inquest into the death of Stephen David Kinch, 43, revealed that he had been drinking before he dove off a boat and did not resurface.
Along with a blood-alcohol level of .265, the autopsy report of pathologist Shravana Jyoti revealed a recent blunt injury to the scalp. One possibility Mr. Jyoti raised was that Mr. Kinch could have hit his head on the boat bottom while trying to resurface.
Jurors last week returned a verdict of death by misadventure after hearing details of the incident that occurred on Sunday, 20 May, 2012. Mr. Kinch was a Canadian national who had been working in Cayman for just over one year.
Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik read witness statements from people who knew him. They indicated he was disappointed that his girlfriend had broken up with him. He was also upset about losing his job as a bartender; although he realised he was wrong, he thought he should have been given a warning instead of being fired.
His brother reported that Mr. Kinch had since been interviewed for another job and sounded positive because he had an appointment to meet the general manager the following Thursday.
One witness who gave evidence in person was Shawn Seggie, who invited Mr. Kinch to lunch that Sunday because he knew he wasn’t in the best of spirits. When they went to eat, Mr. Seggie ordered food, but Mr. Kinch had three vodka and orange drinks, saying he had been drinking from that morning and the night before.
After lunch they went out on a boat part-owned by Mr. Seggie. They tied up to a mooring to wait for another boat and Mr. Kinch had two more drinks of vodka and orange juice.
Mr. Seggie said he went into the water and swam around for a bit. As he went back onto the boat, he saw Mr. Kinch jump off the front.
The witness explained that he is a dive instructor and trained first responder. When he did not see Mr. Kinch resurface, he dove into the water to look for him. The current was pushing out to sea and he thought that if Mr. Kinch were unconscious he would be carried out.
After a preliminary look, he called police. A man on a personal watercraft then gave him a dive mask and towed him around to continue the search. Mr. Seggie located his friend near the bottom of the reef, about 15 feet from the boat. The Police Marine Unit arrived and transported Mr. Kinch’s body to shore.
The pathologist advised the court that the alcohol concentration in Mr. Kinch’s body appeared to be significant. It could result in marked mental confusion, exaggeration of emotions, dizziness, decreased pain response, disorientation and fatigue as well as a false sense of energy.
“Any of these effect independently or in combination can contribute to the cause of death, especially in water related deaths,” Mr. Jyoti said.
He noted there were no signs of violence or trauma on the body, nothing to suggest assault. The scalp injury did result in a mild haemorrhage, but there was no skull fracture.
The physical cause of death was sea water drowning, with underlying causes listed as acute alcohol intoxication, probable cardiac event and recent blunt trauma to the scalp.
In summing up the evidence and the law, the coroner reminded jurors that a verdict of misadventure or natural causes could be reached on the balance of probabilities. For a verdict of suicide, the jury would have to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that death occurred as a result of a deliberate act of the deceased and he intended that the consequences of that act would be his own death, other possibilities being totally ruled out.
Natural causes, she pointed out, is the normal progression of natural illness, while misadventure the deliberate undertaking of a task which then goes wrong. If jurors concluded they did not have sufficient evidence for any other verdict, they could return an open verdict.
The jury’s verdict of misadventure was unanimous.