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.”
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.