Separate coroner’s inquests were held concerning the deaths of two men resulting from a November 2015 road accident in Cayman Brac, but the verdicts returned were the same: Driver Douglas Kent Carney and passenger Mark Bettencourt died by misadventure.
A summary of facts indicated that neither man was wearing a seat belt and air bags did not deploy.
The men were Americans who had homes in Cayman Brac.
Much of the evidence from the first inquest on Oct. 19 was repeated this week for a different jury.
The accident occurred on South Side Road East on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, around 4:48 p.m. when light was still good and the road surface was dry.
A report by accident reconstructionist Lenford Butler indicated that Kansas construction company owner Mr. Carney, 50, was the driver of a right-hand drive minivan, and Mr. Bettencourt, a 54-year-old optometrist, also from Kansas, was the front-seat passenger. The speed limit was 40 mph and the vehicle was traveling east between 40 to 50 mph.
Mr. Butler said the van drifted to the left and collided with five medium size rocks off the side of the road. This caused the left side of the vehicle to slow while the right side continued at the same speed, causing the vehicle to go counter-clockwise. It then hit some bigger rocks and palm trees before coming to rest on its left (passenger) side.
The reconstructionist said it was his opinion that alcohol consumption had reduced Mr. Carney’s reaction time and caused him to go straight instead of following the curvature of the road.
Government pathologist Dr. Shravana Jyoti submitted laboratory tests which showed Mr. Carney’s blood/alcohol level to be .204. The legal limit for driving in Cayman is .100.
Officers from the fire department, ambulance service and police department attended the scene. They saw Mr. Carney behind the steering wheel and a second man between the front and back seat. They worked to extricate the two.
While there, police received information that there was supposed to be a third person in the vehicle. The man inside the minivan was Robert A. Barbera. Inquiries were made at his home and Mr. Bettencourt’s home, while a search of the area around the accident scene was carried out. One of the officers then observed part of a green shirt, which could barely be seen, under the vehicle.
Fire department personnel pulled the minivan forward and uncovered the third person, Mr. Bettencourt, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Initial media reports on the crash indicated that Mr. Bettencourt was found about three-and-a-half-hours after the accident was reported.
Mr. Barbera was transferred to hospital in Grand Cayman and subsequently provided a statement. He said Mr. Carney and Mr. Bettencourt were going to go diving that day and he did not know if they did or not, but they had stopped for drinks at Barracuda Bar. He joined them there.
Around 3 p.m., he knew he had too much to drink. Arrangements were made for someone to drive Mr. Carney’s vehicle with the three men back to Mr. Barbera’s house, with another person following to take the driver back to the bar. Mr. Barbera’s vehicle remained at the bar.
After a while, Mr. Carney said he was hungry and the three men decided to go to his house because someone there was barbecuing, Mr. Barbera reported. He said he left the yard and then he could not remember anything until he was in hospital. The events surrounding the accident were blurred, but he knew he definitely was wearing his seat belt.
Post-mortem examinations showed that the physical cause of death for Mr. Carney was severe blunt impact trauma to the head.
In the accident reconstruction, Mr. Butler said the window on Mr. Bettencourt’s side of the vehicle had been open. He was thrown out of the window onto the ground and the vehicle fell on him.
Mr. Jyoti said the physical cause of death was most likely contributed to by the rolling of the vehicle upon the victim immediately after the accident. “Multiple blunt impact trauma to various organs sustained during the accident and pressure on the airways and chest caused due to weight of the vehicle on the victim resulting in mechanical asphyxia are attributable to the fatal outcome,” he reported.