Two separate juries for coroner’s inquests returned verdicts of misadventure after hearing the circumstances in which two men died after snorkeling.
The inquest for 79-year-old Delmar Reynolds Nelson, a cruise ship passenger, took place last month. The inquest for 69-year-old Mark Ambrose, a visitor who had been coming to Cayman since 1996, was held last week.
Post-mortem examinations by government pathologist Shravana Jyoti showed that both men had heart conditions and were mildly or moderately obese.
Mr. Nelson, a U.S. citizen from Illinois, arrived in Cayman aboard the cruise ship Getaway with 12 family members on March 24, 2016. Around noon, he and some family members boarded a vessel to go snorkeling approximately half a mile out from Burger King on the waterfront. His daughter requested a life vest for him and instructions for snorkeling, because he had not done it for a long time.
Once in the water, Mr. Nelson began swimming around but after about five minutes, his daughter noticed water coming from his snorkel pipe and thought he might be having trouble. She called for help and the boat crew got Mr. Nelson on board. An emergency medical technician began CPR; he asked for a respirator and then a defibrillator, but there was none on board.
Another boat transported Mr. Nelson to shore, where CPR continued until an ambulance took him to hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Family members said Mr. Nelson had undergone quadruple bypass surgery in 1999 and was under the care of a cardiologist.
Mr. Jyoti said the physical cause of death was hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiac disease, with recent seawater drowning as a contributing factor. Laboratory tests for drugs or alcohol were negative.
Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik advised jurors in her summing up that the possible verdicts fitting this situation were death by natural causes or by misadventure. Natural causes is the normal progression of an illness; misadventure is the undertaking of a task that goes wrong. She reminded jurors that Mr. Jyoti had said that this could have happened on land as long as Mr. Nelson was doing anything strenuous; in the water he was swimming, which was an exertion.
“You have to decide which is weighted more,” she said.
The jury’s verdict of misadventure was unanimous.
In the inquest on the death of Mr. Ambrose, jurors heard that he and his wife had arrived on island from California on Dec. 6, 2016. On Dec. 11, they went snorkeling from shore at Eden Rock. After about 10 minutes, they went in separate directions, as they normally did. Mrs. Ambrose came out of the water first and was not concerned that she did not see her husband, because he always showed up later. After more than an hour had passed, however, she became concerned and spoke to an Eden Rock staff member, who contacted Port Security and 911.
The Police Marine and Air Support Units were deployed and Mr. Ambrose was seen floating face down at Jackson Point. He was pulled from the water by officers who started CPR, taken to the port terminal and then to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Mr. Jyoti said the cause of death appeared to be “acute cardiac event with the terminal seawater drowning while the victim was snorkeling at sea.” Laboratory tests for drugs or alcohol were negative.
With the evidence pointing to verdicts of natural causes or misadventure, this jury also determined that death was by misadventure.