North Sound drowning was misadventure

Alcohol a contributing factor in death of Marco Rankine, pathologist says 



A coroner’s jury has determined that 20-year-old Marco Peter Oliver Rankine drowned earlier this year in the North Sound after diving from a boat to retrieve a hat that had blown off his girlfriend’s head. 

Jurors adopted the findings of pathologist Dr. Shravana Jyoti, who added as contributory causes acute alcohol intoxication, fatigue and rough seas during the Feb. 10 incident. 

After hearing the evidence of the other two people on the boat with Mr. Rankine, and evidence of rescue efforts, the jury’s verdict was misadventure. 

In her summing up last week, coroner Eileen Nervik noted the several references to the weather that evening: winds east-northeast, 15 to 20 knots; seas moderate to rough with wave heights of 4 to 6 feet; small craft warning. 

Mr. Rankine was 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed 140.5 pounds. The autopsy report included tests for drugs and alcohol. The alcohol-in-blood level was 0.212, more than twice the legal limit for driving in the Cayman Islands. The drug screen was negative.  

Witnesses included Mr. Rankine’s girlfriend, Avisa Tahal, and her father, Police Inspector Andre Tahal, with whom Mr. Rankine resided. They were in Mr. Tahal’s boat, a 21-foot Sundance. 

Ms Tahal said they left Kaibo about 5:30 p.m. She was wearing Mr. Rankine’s blue and black hat and it blew off into the water.  

Mr. Rankine reached over and she held his legs, but he was unable to reach the cap. She told him to leave it, but he said no – he had just got it on Friday and paid a lot of money for it. Then he jumped into the water. 

She said her dad turned the boat around toward Mr. Rankine and she threw him a line, but he did not appear to reach for it. Then she threw a life vest, while her father kept trying to get closer to Mr. Rankine. 

She said her father then jumped into the water. The current was taking both of them farther away. She didn’t know how to operate the boat, so she called her mother, who is a police officer and who was on duty. Her mother said she would contact 911. 

Ms Tahal said she managed to get the boat in gear and get closer to the men. She put on a life vest and got into the water. When she got to where Mr. Rankine had been, he wasn’t there. At one point, the waves were so high she could not see the men, only hear them. She started to panic when her life vest loosened, but then she saw her neighbor George Smith and Special Constable Pedro Echinique coming in a boat and they pulled her from the water. 

The coroner read a statement from Mr. Smith, while Mr. Echinique and marine officers gave evidence in person to detail rescue efforts. 

Mr. Tahal also gave evidence. He said he and Mr. Rankine spent several hours that day cleaning and polishing the boat. Mr. Rankine had some beers but he did not drink anything because he was waiting for an update on a work-related operation. After that, they took out the boat. He agreed there was a bottle of rum on board. 

Verdicts open to a jury are natural causes, suicide and misadventure. The coroner explained that if evidence is insufficient for a verdict to be reached, the verdict shall be open.