A coroner’s jury concluded last week that Dale Gerald Ebanks died by misadventure when the boat he was on went out of control and he was thrown overboard on New Year’s Day. Mr. Ebanks, 49, was hit in the head by the boat’s propeller.
With him at the time of the incident was his brother, Ian Martin Ebanks, 48.
In his statement to police, Mr. Ebanks said he and his brother launched the boat from the Cayman Islands Yacht Club that Sunday afternoon. It was a Trinidadian 26-foot canoe with twin 75-horsepower engines. His intention was to “test out” the boat, but not at any high speed.
They headed toward Rum Point, but knew they did not have enough gas and so turned back. On the way back, all of a sudden the boat made a left turn. Mr. Ebanks said he had been operating the vessel. His brother, who had been standing next to him, grabbed for the Bimini top, which broke under his weight, which caused him to be thrown overboard on the starboard side.
Mr. Ebanks said he felt a bump and then saw his brother float to the surface. He was able to put the boat in neutral, throw the anchor overboard, take his phone out of his pocket and then jump overboard to hold his brother up.
“We were not wearing any life jackets,” he said. “Another boat behind us gave us assistance.”
That other boat was “My Way” captained by Sheldon Reid. His statement and that of a deckhand provided details of rescue efforts.
Mr. Ebanks said that after they put his brother aboard Mr. Reid’s boat, he observed that his brother had a cut to the left side of his face and a small cut to his left temple. One of the guests brought towels to apply pressure to the wound on his face. His brother was still breathing and water was coming from his mouth.
Mr. Reid said he was heading to the Governor’s Sound Channel about 5:50 p.m. He saw the boat in front of him. He saw it make a sudden and sharp turn to the portside – so sharp that the boat did a 180-degree turn and pointed in his direction. He was about 300 yards away at the time. He headed his boat over to help. He saw one man holding up the other. They were brought aboard and he called 911.
He was told to turn the injured man on his side and try to clear his airways of any obstruction.
While they were on their way back to shore, he heard Ian Ebanks call his brother’s name as if to wake him, and then he kissed his brother on his cheek. They arrived at the dock at 6:05 p.m. and the ambulance left with the injured man around 6:30 p.m.
Before the sudden turn, the vessel was not being driven in a reckless or erratic manner, Mr. Reid stated.
The investigating officer said Mr. Ebanks told him that the boat’s speed at the time of the incident was 20 to 25 knots. The officer reported that the vessel’s starboard engine had the propeller missing and the Bimini aluminum pole on the starboard side was broken.
He said an independent marine surveyor’s report was commissioned.
That report indicated that the steering cable was not properly connected on the vessel and this could have been a contributing factor to the incident. Further, there was no grab rail for passengers to hang onto. The propeller seemed to have come off in the water, which suggested that it was not properly secured to the engine. The vessel itself appeared to be aesthetically in general poor condition, according to the report.
An autopsy conducted by Dr. Michael Steckbauer detailed Mr. Ebanks’s injuries. He concluded that death was the result of sharp force injury to the head. Laboratory tests for alcohol and drugs were negative, except for one drug administered at the hospital before surgery.
Referring to their closeness in age, Ian Ebanks said, “My relationship with my brother was very, very good. We drank from the same nurse bottle. We fished together. We fixed cars together. We did a lot together.”
The inquest was conducted by Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik.