A total of 17 people have died, or are presumed to have died, in water-related incidents in the Cayman Islands during 2016.

The deaths, which occurred between Jan. 20 and Nov. 22, include five individuals who went missing and are now presumed dead after having last been seen March 6 on a boat near 12 Mile Bank, west of Grand Cayman.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officially considers those five, Edsell Haylock, Gary Mullings, Nicholas Watler, 11-year-old Kamron Brown and 9-year-old Kanyi Brown as “missing persons.” However, none of the five have been heard from in the seven months since their disappearance.

The death toll of 17 eclipses last year’s total of 14 water-related fatalities and is thought to be the highest number of deaths seen in Cayman Islands waters for a decade.

In a departure from previous years, a significant number of Caymanians or longtime local residents are among the victims.

In addition to the five local boaters, a young Caymanian man, Michael Gourzong, 24, died in June after getting into trouble during a swim near Spotts Beach.

Just this week, a longtime work permit holder and resident of the islands, Tian Lun “Aoki” Ma was found dead off the coast of West Bay district, where he had apparently gone fishing.

At least nine of the remaining 10 victims were tourists, including frequent Cayman visitor and former PepsiCo chief executive Roger Enrico, 71, who died here on June 1.

During the five years between 2007 and 2012, water sports-related fatalities in Cayman averaged between nine and ten cases per year. That includes swimming, snorkeling, diving and boating incidents.

Local dive industry workers will often point out that an incident classed as a “diving accident” or “swimming accident” may often be classed as a water sports fatality, when it may have more to do with the individual’s physical condition.

Age also plays a significant role. According to records examined by the Cayman Compass, 22 of 26 water-related fatalities to occur here between 2003 and 2011 involved victims who were over age 50. The youngest victim in that group was 39.

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