Police: Health, age contribute to water deaths

Police name two deceased snorkelers

A Joint Marine Unit boat

Although a significant number of tourists have died so far this year in Cayman waters, the sheer number of these incidents within five months may not give a full picture of why they occur.

The number of confirmed water related deaths in Cayman this year – at least seven – has already matched the total number for all of 2017. However, Royal Cayman Islands Police marine officers said it is not unusual to have 10 or more people die in local waters in any given year.

“Water-related deaths in the Cayman Islands over the past few years have been in the two-figure range annually, and this year seems to be no different,” said Marine Unit Inspector Demenian Maxwell.

The deaths that have occurred so far in 2018 have not all been fully investigated, but historically, in most water-related incidents, pre-existing health conditions are a factor, Inspector Maxwell said.

“We’ve found from the numerous investigations and autopsy reports that the majority of the incidents involve tourists who are elderly or [who] have existing co-morbidities,” he said. “There are some isolated incidents where persons have underestimated the sea conditions and fall victim to strong currents or inclement weather.”

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The RCIPS identified the victims of two recent water-related incidents as Peter Stuart Schilke, 57, of Connecticut, U.S. and 83-year-old Walter Franklin Steele of North Carolina, U.S.

Both men died after getting into difficulty while snorkeling, Mr. Schilke in East End and Mr. Steele at Stingray City in the North Sound.

The seven confirmed water deaths to occur so far in 2018 involve visitors from the U.S. Six of the seven visitors experienced difficulties while they were out on snorkeling or swimming trips; the seventh visitor death involved a 70-year-old diver, Beverly Ann Bersano of Illinois.

An eighth death, reported April 2, involved a 76-year-old West Bay man, Dorriel McLean, who had been out fishing when he got into distress. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service did not initially record this as a water-related incident.

A possible ninth fatality involves missing swimmer Linvol Smith on Cayman Brac, who disappeared over the Discovery Day holiday weekend. Searches for Mr. Smith were called off early last week.

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  1. With all due respect to the RCIPS , I have to think that they are not fully qualified without a autopsy /inquiries to give a qualified opinion on the subject of the many different situations of water related deaths , which seems to be rising .
    Are they fully qualified to give advice on prevention for helping fix this issue.
    Why I believe that they aren’t, is because during the inquest of Mr Antonio Paron Lazcano a last year tragedy , Mr Anthony Thomas from the RCIPS said that crew of the boat can advise , but they can’t force .
    I will say to Officer Thomas that his statement is wrong . If he was a passenger on my boat trip he would have seen that my words and advice is the law on board my boat and should be when there’s a responsible Captain behind the wheel of the ship/boat .

    I am still under the impression that more can be done to help prevent some of these tragic deaths from happening . I know that there wern’t these many water related deaths in years gone by , so it has to be reasons why they are increasing today .
    In solving any problem, first we have to see and understand that there’s a problem , because without acknowledging that there’s a problem we are going to believe that there’s no need for a discussion about the problem.

    To better understand the importance of the issue. How many inquest were done with the past tragedies ? The inquest of Mr Lazcano is the only one that I can recall , what was the Judge recommendation for the results of that one ?

  2. Rather than saying this is the usual number, the government should be trying to reduce these deaths. I’ve been on snorkeling excursions where the crew is ONLY interested in the money and NOT on people’s safety. How about regulating these businesses to make sure they have the crew and equipment to save people! In addition, the government or local buisnesses could be required to hire lifeguards, depending on the number of bathers.