Wednesday 14 May 2008

Blogs shaping how the public gather information and make opinions

A few months ago I posted a story about Diver Fatalities. I am an active diver and I write about scuba diving for Diver Magazine in Canada and a number of newspapers. Since that posting appeared on this site, I have received numerous emails from readers wanting to know about recent diver deaths. I have avoided responding because this web page is really about maximizing one's (be in personal or corporate) publicity potential. Despite the fact that I haven't posted about dive fatalities since then, A check of my web records show that googled: " cayman dive fatalities " is the number one reason that people find my site (followed closely by "hookers, Jane and Finch"). So, with that in mind the following has been posted about a May 13th dive fatality on Grand Cayman Island. I don't have much information, but, here is what I know.


I was monitoring Cayman radio stations this morning (14 May 2008) and noted that there was a dive fatality yesterday in Cayman. Vibe radio, in its 8am news broadcast was reporting a female tourist from Texas died while shore-diving near the Crack Conch cafe. A 911 call came into police from a citizen on shore who saw a diver waving for help. The diver was in the water, and beside him (her?) there was a female diver who was not moving. Police arrived quickly. The divers were brought to shore. The injured diver was given CPR and taken to hospital but could not be revived.

Since posting this item, the following news item appeared in the Cayman Compass:Diver dead in West Bay. Wednesday 14th May, 2008
A vacationer on a shore dive in West Bay died Monday afternoon.
The 45–year–old woman, who was from Texas, was spotted in the water just off Coconut Bay. A 911 caller reported seeing two divers who had surfaced near the shore; one was waving and the other was not moving.
The unresponsive diver was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead. A cause of death had not immediately been determined. A post mortem will be conducted, but police said no foul play was suspected in the woman’s death.

The incident in West Bay Monday was believed to be the fourth watersports–related fatality in Grand Cayman so far this year.

On 3 March, a 69–year–old English swimmer’s inert body was found by a snorkeller along Seven Mile Beach. There were also two diving deaths here in January, one off 12 Mile Bank and another that occurred near the West Bay dock.


It is May 29th and once again, while listening to Cayman radio on my computer, I heard a news story about a tourist dying underwater in Grand Cayman. I was able to find local newspaper coverage of the incident. It would be unfair to the local dive industry to call this a scuba death, rather it was a Sea-Tek helmet death .... the first I have ever heard about.

Sub-Sea Ltd, a California company manufactures Sea-Tek, a plastic helmet with a large space-suit like glass window. The weighted helmet has a tube that leads up to the surface. Air is pumped from the surface through this tube, into the helmet. Tourists simply put the helmet on and then enter the water. They are able to walk on the bottom of the ocean and look at coral reefs, fish and sometimes even shipwrecks, without ever having to swim. Helmet diving unlike scuba, lets tourists get underwater without any formal training.

The helmets are meant to be used in shallow water and the guests have to follow a predetrimned path along the ocean floor. Scuba diving guides and safety personnel are with the tourists at all times. Because of the shallow depths (10 ft) that the Sea-Tek divers walk in, most people could easily remove their helmets and swim to the surface if there were any problems with their air supply.

According to the Cayman newspapers "The tourist who died while helmet diving in the Caymans has been identified as Timothy Eugene Mowry of Traverse City, Michigan. Mowry, 62, died last Monday (May 26th) while participating in a helmet dive with his son near the Royal Watler Port in George Town. Witnesses said the victim lost consciousness and died while diving with a Sea Trek diving helmet. Crew members aboard the Sea Trek vessel said he was unconscious when he was pulled from the water and never revived despite CPR efforts by paramedics and Sea Trek staff.

The helmet diving accident, the fifth diving-related fatality this year, is under investigation by the Royal Cayman Islands Police.


Coroner’s verdicts on tourist deaths
By James Dimond,
Sunday 11th May, 2008

The Coroner’s Court recently considered the deaths of four tourists that were pulled from Grand Cayman’s waters dead between June 2006 and April 2007.


Nebraska retiree Daniel Childs, 71, died while diving near the blowhole in East End. Mr. Childs and his son, Frederick, had been 15 minutes into a group dive with a tour operator in April 2007 when he was noticed missing.

In a statement, the dive–master with Mr. Childs’ group said she had ordered the other divers to ascend to the surface once Mr. Childs was noticed missing. He was later found floating on the surface of the water. CPR was performed on Mr. Childs for an extended period, but he was later pronounced dead at the Cayman Islands Hospital.

In a statement, Frederick Childs said his father was a very good swimmer, an experienced diver, and in perfect health, but an autopsy found that Mr. Childs had severe narrowing of his coronary artery, an enlarged heart and was diabetic.

The doctor performing the autopsy said it appeared Mr. Childs had made an uncontrolled assent to the surface that could have been the result of panic – possibly related to his heart condition. A Department of Environment inspection found that the diving equipment Mr. Childs used was functioning properly at the time of his death.

Queen’s Coroner Margaret Ramsay–Hale pointed out there were a number of possible explanations for Mr. Childs’ rapid ascent, but told the jury they did not have to decide why he rose so suddenly. If they accepted that he drowned it could only be because of accident or a third party, with all the evidence pointing to the former, she said.

The jury ruled the death an accident, returning a verdict of death by misadventure.


A verdict of death by misadventure was also returned in the case of Michael Kuntz, who was honeymooning in Cayman with his wife, Patricia Kuntz, in January, 2007. The Nebraskan couple had been married for nine months when Mr. Kuntz’s body was pulled from the water in front of Sunset House following a shore dive.

He had been out diving with a friend, James Paben, also from Nebraska. In a statement, Mr. Paben said both were certified divers and Mr. Kuntz had done about 30 dives. He said the two had gone about 200 to 300 yards from shore and dived to a depth of about 60 feet. After about half an hour, they had decided to go back, and Mr. Kuntz ascended to the surface first.

When Mr. Paben surfaced, Mr. Kuntz was about 40 feet away. While swimming towards shore, Mr. Paben noticed his friend was not keeping up. “At this stage I waved to our wives to get help,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if Michael was having problems but I wanted to be on the safe side. Shortly after the dive instructor swam out to me. I pointed out to him the last place I saw Michael.”

In a statement, the instructor said he found Mr. Kuntz lying face down in the water. His face was blue, his eyes open and glazy and his mouth open with water in it. The instructor commenced rescue breathing and, when picked up by a boat a few minutes later, CPR, but Mr. Kuntz could not be revived.

A post mortem examination found foam drainage in Mr. Kuntz’s left ear – signalling he may have made a rapid ascent to the surface. It also found severe narrowing in one of the arteries leading to his heart.

Temporary Health Services Authority Pathologist, Jacqueline Torrell, who was in court to help explain the post mortem and autopsy report findings to the jury, was asked by the coroner whether it was possible Mr. Kuntz had a heart problem while underwater. “This evidence of heart disease could have caused a shortness of breath or some other episode, leading to panic,” she replied.

The coroner pointed out that 30 dives over a period of years did not amount to a lot of diving experience, and that could explain why he surfaced so quickly. But she said it was not for the jury to decide why Mr. Kuntz rose so rapidly – they had to decide whether he drowned, and if he did, whether it was an accident – a view they accepted, returning a verdict of death by misadventure.


Jurors examining the death of Charles Simpson, 57, from Texas, heard Mr. Simpson had gone to Smith Cove Beach to dive with his wife and two other couples on 11 March, 2007.

His wife, Carol, said in a statement the couple had been the last into the water, with her about 10 yards behind Mr. Simpson.

After making it about 20 yards into the water, Mrs. Smith said she became uncomfortable with her gear and decided to return to shore.

Carl Simpson – a relative and friend of the deceased – was about 75 yards ahead at the time. He said Mr. Simpson – known as Chuck – continued to come towards the other divers initially, but then waved his hand at them to indicate he was returning to shore. Another member of the group said Mr. Simpson had only been about 30 yards into the water when he indicated he was turning back.

When she got back on shore, Mrs. Simpson looked for her husband but didn’t see him, so assumed he had caught up with the others.

When the group returned without him about 30 minutes later, Mrs. Simpson asked where her husband was. “They told me that he turned, said that he was going back to shore, but that they had not seen him since.”

Police later found Mr. Simpson’s lifeless body face down in the water. A post mortem examination listed drowning as the cause of death, but noted that Mr. Simpson was moderately obese, diabetic and had severe narrowing of his coronary artery. The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

Snorkelling death at BT

The jury were also asked to consider the death of Thomas DeMarco, 49, from Georgia, who was found unconscious on Bodden Town Public Beach after snorkelling and later pronounced dead.

Mr. DeMarco went snorkelling with his son and wife on 20 June, 2006 by the reef in front of Turtle Nest Inn. In a statement, his wife, Martha, said she had stayed in shallow water and returned to shore first.

When son, Ben, returned to the shore alone, she asked where his father was. Ben said he didn’t know. She returned to their hotel room to see if Mr. DeMarco was there, but he wasn’t. Back on the beach, Mrs. DeMarco saw a group of people gathered, including two paramedics. “I looked and saw a body lying on the beach ... I then knew it was him,” she said. “I then saw them several times doing CPR and leaning the body to let the water out, but when I saw this, in my mind, I knew he was dead.”

The coroner pointed out that an autopsy had concluded the death was caused by drowning. It noted Mr. DeMarco had a history of high blood pressure and diabetes.

The report also noted there was narrowing in one of the arteries leading to Mr. DeMarco’s heart, but the coroner pointed out Mr. Demarco had no known history of heart problems.

She said it could have been that high blood pressure or a heart complaint caused Mr. DeMarco to panic, leading to his drowning. But she emphasised it was not for the jury to determine how the man drowned, but if he drowned and whether it was an accident. After a brief deliberation, the jury concluded it was, returning a verdict of death by misadventure.