Visiting Special Olympian died of natural causes

Athlete collapsed during open water swim competition

A member of the Uruguay Special Olympics swimming team died in Grand Cayman last year of natural causes, a coroner’s jury determined last week. 

Pablo Jose Perez Iarza, 41, was taking part in an 800-meter sea swim on May 25, 2013, when he was pulled unconscious from the water about 25 minutes after the swim began at Governor’s Beach near the Avalon Condominiums, according to a police press release after the incident. 

The press release said 911 received the report about 4:25 p.m. Emergency personnel transported Mr. Iarza to Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town, where he was pronounced dead around 5:07 p.m.  

Pathologist John Jameson stated in his autopsy report that Mr. Iarza was a person with special needs.  

He had arrived in the Cayman Islands with his swimming coach on May 23 and did some swimming at the Lions Pool on May 24. 

On May 25, the sea swim began around 4:10 p.m. and while Mr. Iarza was participating, his coach walked on the beach about 5 meters from him. 

As the race got to about 350 meters, the coach observed Mr. Iarza make a strange movement.  

The coach rushed into the water, but before he was able to reach the swimmer, Mr. Iarza had turned himself over onto his back. He was taken to shore, where people assisted with CPR until paramedics arrived and took over. 

Police spoke with the coach through a translator and later visited Mr. Iarza’s hotel room. There they found his passport and six medications, including prescription anti-psychotic and anti-convulsant items.  

Dr. Jameson said those medications, along with the circumstances and autopsy findings, led him to conclude that the cause of death appeared to be sudden cardiac death, possibly initiated by an epileptic seizure. 

He said it could only be speculated as to whether Mr. Iarza would have survived if he had been on land. 

The pathologist noted that Mr. Iarza’s heart appeared mildly enlarged. He had not encountered any difficulties previously while swimming, and he had undergone an electrocardiogram test two months earlier, which was good. 

Jurors adopted the pathologist’s finding as to physical cause of death before returning their verdict of natural causes. 

The inquest was conducted by Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik. 


Mr. Iarza

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now