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June 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 30, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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“They Confirmed He was Dead, Then Left . . . Without the Body”

from the June, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The number of diver deaths in the Cayman Islands so far in 2015 is eight, but it's a March 31 fatality, a 62-yearold tourist from Northport, AL, causing the most controversy after a local dive boat operator claimed the authorities mistreated the man's body.

Victor Crawford was doing a morning dive off Lover's Wall in the East End with a group of 18 when no one could locate him after they surfaced. They radioed for help and a boat from the Ocean Frontiers dive shop responded. Crawford was later found in the water, and Ocean Frontiers' boat staff took him to their dock for treatment. The controversy started after Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) told the Cayman News Service that Crawford was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was officially pronounced dead. However, Ocean Frontiers managing director, Stephen Broadbelt, wrote a reply, stating he was "shocked" with RCIPs' response. "The ambulance took over one hour to arrive, and even after 911 was called, they called back to ask if we were sure and did we really need an ambulance. To make matters worse, after the paramedics had assessed the body, they confirmed he was dead, got back in the ambulance and left, without the body."

After Broadbelt's comments, RCIPS changed its story, confirming Broadbelt's claim that the ambulance left the scene without Crawford's body, but a spokesperson said the ambulance was called at noon, arrived at 12:42 p.m., and then was dispatched while uniformed police stayed until an undertaker arrived. The RCIPS maintains that it wasn't negligent and that allegations of mistreatment are causing distress to Crawford's family.

The number of deaths has Cayman dive operators defending their islands, insisting it's a safe place to dive. Nick Buckley, founder of Deep Blue Divers, told the Cayman Reporter, "If you take the number of divers who come to Cayman, multiply that by the number of dives they make, and then do it as a percentage, you'll see that [diving fatalities are] absolutely miniscule."

Cayman dive instructors named heart attack as the number one cause of death during diving, and Buckley says that despite asking a lot of medical questions of divers on the release forms, some people don't tell the whole truth. "If they are found out, they can get very defensive and angry, as if you have ruined their holiday. They don't understand the position they put themselves and their family in, as well as any potential incidents that would affect our business.."

Another issue for dive operators is the vague use of the term "dive accident." Keith Sahm, general manager of Sunset Divers, told the Cayman Reporter, "If a person has a heart attack on a golf course, he had a heart attack; he didn't have a golf-related accident . . . but if somebody has a heart attack while scuba diving or snorkeling, all of a sudden it's a diving accident. We have had 400,000 more visitors this year than we had last year . . . so quite frankly, just on the regular percentages alone, you're going to have more jet ski accidents, more snorkeling deaths, and more scuba-related deaths."

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