Grim year already in Cayman waters

Four people have died and another five are missing following incidents in Cayman Islands waters since Jan. 1, according to police records.

Typically, the Cayman Islands has averaged between nine and 10 water-related fatalities per year.

So far, Cayman has already reported more water-related incidents this year than in the first three months of 2015, when six people died and a seventh went missing and was presumed drowned.

Search called off

On Friday, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service reported it had ended its search and recovery operation for five boaters missing at sea since March 6. Gary Mullings, Edsell Haylock, Nicholas Watler and two children, 11-year-old Kamron Brown and 9-year-old Kanyi Brown never returned from a fishing trip to 12 Mile Bank.

“There were no significant discoveries or developments to report within that operation with respect to those missing,” according to an RCIPS statement.

The police will keep an open missing persons file on the boaters, according to a spokesperson.

Snorkeling death

On Thursday, at the start of a long Easter weekend, an elderly American man from Illinois died after getting into difficulty while snorkeling near Harbour Drive. Police identified the drowning victim as 79-year-old Delmer Nelson.

It was the fourth swimming or diving related death reported since the start of the year, all of which involved tourists.

The other incidents were:

March 16 – On Cayman Brac, police officers responded to a report of an unconscious man being taken to a dock during the mid-morning. Police said the man had been scuba diving and lost consciousness. The victim, James B. Campbell, 65, of Kentucky, U.S., was pronounced dead at Faith Hospital.

Jan. 27 – A 54-year-old tourist got into trouble during the early afternoon near the coast of North West Point in West Bay. Police said a dive crew attempted to resuscitate the man unsuccessfully. The victim, Michael D. English of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was pronounced dead at the Cayman Islands Hospital.

Jan. 20 – A man snorkeling off Cemetery Beach in West Bay got in difficulty and attempts to revive him were not successful. Joseph Dieschbourg, 65, of Illinois, U.S. died at the Cayman Islands Hospital.

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

Subscribe now


  1. The government need to enforce certain rules against fishermen, to carry life saving equipment when going out. The days of just jumping in a boat and going out side has ended. Fish was close and plentiful those days. now they have to travel long and far for a good catch.
    Let it be a plea to fishermen to protect themselves as best as they can. God be with the families of the lost loved ones.

  2. Well said Twyla, as a yachtsman of many years and tens of thousands of sea miles, I have found it sad to see people blaming anyone but the boat skipper for this sad loss. I know that when I set out to sea, particularly a very empty one like we have around Cayman, I have proper communications equipment,( VHF lights and flares), proper life saving equipment, (personal flotation and liferaft or inflatable dinghy), and at the very least, someone is aware of where I am going and when to get alarmed. None of that was present here, and I find that the tendency to use the police as scapegoat is wrong particularly when it comes from senior politicians. They at least should know better even if they don’t know about the sea!

  3. Agree with you both, Twyla and Arthur.

    It is very sad when anyone loses their life needlessly. My prayers are with them and their family. But the police were not at fault here.
    The law is that life vests and safety equipment must be on boats. But it is not enforced.

    When boating in Florida it is not rare to be stopped by the Marine Police for a safety check of one’s life saving equipment. And that is just in the inter-coastal, not the open sea.

    Meanwhile I regularly see tourists boats passing by well over-loaded with passengers. It amazes me there are not more accidents.

    There seems to be a lot of people dying while snorkeling. I suspect one reason is that a little water gets into the tube and sucked in the by the swimmer. Any experienced snorkeler knows how to blow that water out. But a newbie can easily panic. When people go out they need to be shown not just how to breathe but how to clear the snorkel of water.

  4. @ Norman Linton

    Do you remember the Complaint Commissioner’s report on Safety of Small Commercial Waterborne Vessels that went before the LA in November 2006 and was then buried without a trace? If you can still find a copy it is well worth reading because the warnings in it seem to have been completely ignored by certain sectors of the watersports industry.

    Check out –