A coroner’s jury began hearing evidence on Monday about the death of Norwegian businessman Erik Henriksen, which occurred on the Remembrance Day holiday on Nov. 9, 2015.
Government pathologist Dr. Shravana Jyoti said the physical cause of death was seawater drowning. He told the jury that he had received background information from the police, which indicated that Mr. Henriksen and the boat captain had been thrown from Mr. Henriksen’s 34-foot Nor-Tech vessel and Mr. Henriksen could not make it to shore.
Dr. Jyoti said a contributing factor was the presence of two broken ribs on Mr. Henriksen’s left side, which would have caused him difficulty swimming. The deceased also had a blood-alcohol level of .295 (the legal limit for driving in Cayman being .100).
Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik asked if that alcohol level would have affected his ability to cope with the circumstances. Dr. Jyoti said he thought so.
The circumstances as set out in the autopsy report included the fact that Mr. Henriksen had lunch with a friend at Morgan’s Restaurant, Cayman Islands Yacht Club.
They left the restaurant around 5:15 p.m. and the friend was dropped off at the George Town Yacht Club. Mr. Henriksen and his captain, Warren Weiss, then went on their way to Mr. Henriksen’s residence at the DeckHouses at The Ritz-Carlton.
“Mr. Weiss said he was operating the vessel at a speed of 40-45 mph while the deceased was sitting next to him talking and listening to music,” the autopsy report summarized. “He said he drove past The Ritz-Carlton entrance, which is the entrance to the deceased’s address, for about 400 meters, turned the vessel around and began heading back towards The Ritz-Carlton channel.
“He [Mr. Weiss] said the vessel was traveling parallel to the shoreline and he left the helm to change over the fenders from the starboard side of the vessel to the port side and the deceased was at the time operating the boat and as the vessel was lining up with The Ritz-Carlton channel, he just felt the vessel made a sudden turn which sent him flying into the air, out of the vessel and into the water.
“He [Mr. Weiss] said he was unable to say what happened because, prior to his being thrown out of the vessel, his back was turned to the helm of the vessel.”
This account noted that the unmanned vessel continued in a circular motion in the North Sound until it ended up in the mangroves in the Barkers area of West Bay. The jury heard from witness Neville Scott Jr. of Scott’s Marina that the boat’s GPS system showed it making “hundreds and hundreds” of circles before it entered the mangroves.
Meanwhile, Mr. Weiss swam to shore while trying to assist Mr. Henriksen, who became unresponsive while they were swimming to shore.
Mr. Weiss continued with Mr. Henriksen until they got to shore, where he left him and went for help. He met a security guard and used his cellphone to call 911. An ambulance attended and Mr. Henriksen was transported to the Cayman Islands Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:57 a.m. on Nov. 10.
Police Constable Cyril Gordon, who was the lead investigating officer, read his summary of the case to the jury before the lunch adjournment. He referred several times to his efforts to have the boat inspected so that he could see if the incident was the result of human or mechanical error.
Mr. Gordon said information about the boat indicated it could go 70 mph. Lanyards needed to be clipped to the captain so that if the captain were thrown out of the boat, the boat would stop immediately.
He also referred to evidence of witnesses at the restaurant who said Mr. Henriksen had lifted his shirt and they observed a bruise mark on his left side; Mr. Henriksen told them he got it from wrestling with a friend in Montreal.
Officer Gordon was scheduled to continue his evidence after lunch. The inquest has been scheduled for three days.