Inquest reaches misadventure verdict in diving death case

A coroner’s jury returned a verdict of misadventure Friday in the death of Victor Crawford, an American tourist who died after a scuba diving accident off East End on March 31, 2015.

The 62-year-old diver from Alabama had been a passenger on a live-aboard dive boat called the Cayman Aggressor. He went missing during a group dive, and his body was discovered nearby by crew from Ocean Frontiers dive shop.

His death was the subject of some controversy last year as reports emerged that it took an ambulance nearly an hour to arrive at the dive shop in East End and then left the scene without the body.

RCIPS refuted claims that authorities were negligent in their handling of the case, and police commissioner David Baines appointed a family liaison to deal directly with Mr. Crawford’s family to present evidence of officers’ accounts to assure them that the death had been handled appropriately.

On Friday, a coroner’s jury heard evidence from witnesses who described how Mr. Crawford had dived to a depth of 314 feet, which is far beyond a safe diving depth.

While the standard maximum diving depth is 120 feet, experts said that Mr. Crawford, who was diving with nitrox, should not have gone deeper than 110 feet.

Witnesses testified that Mr. Crawford was an experienced diver who should have been very familiar with safe diving practices, but Department of Environment deputy director Scott Slaybaugh, who testified Friday, said the case involved “a series of actions which were significantly hazardous and far beyond the standard of safe diving practices.”

In addition to the unsafe depth at which he was diving, Mr. Crawford had separated from the group of divers he was with and was diving alone. Mr. Slaybaugh also testified that according to his dive computer, Mr. Crawford ascended rapidly, without making appropriate safety stops.

Health Services Authority pathologist Dr. Shravana Jyoti told the jury that Mr. Crawford had been in good health without any illnesses or diseases that would have influenced his death in the water.

Dr. Jyoti said the cause of death was seawater drowning related to nitrogen toxicity from scuba diving.

Coroner Eileen Nervik read statements of four witnesses to the case, before the jurors deliberated and came to their verdict of misadventure.