The V.I. National Park witnessed its third death this year on Friday, April 27, when Finnish national Ari Roeksae died while snorkeling approximately 50 to 70 yards offshore at Cinnamon Bay.
The 36-year-old man and his wife were in the territory for the day on the Princess Cruises ship, the Crown Princess.
Roeksae had been snorkeling for nearly half an hour, according to his wife, when a couple who were kayaking in the area noticed his snorkel tube was underwater at around 11 a.m.
“There was a couple out kayaking who saw the man — who seemed like just a normal snorkeler at a distance — but when they got closer, they realized he wasn’t moving and his snorkel tube was in the water,” said VINP Chief Ranger Mark Marschall. “They paddled up to him and checked on him, but he was unresponsive. They began yelling for help, and somebody came out from the shore to help them bring the victim in.”
Marschall did not have information on whether the person who brought the victim in was working at Cinnamon Bay at the time. The beach has no lifeguard service.
No Pulse, Not Breathing
“They got him to shore and started CPR right away,” said Marschall. “Cinnamon has an automatic defibrillator, so they brought that down and attached it to him, but it did not indicate a shock was appropriate.”
The victim had no pulse and was not breathing when he was brought in to the beach, Marschall added.
VINP officials, St. John EMS and St. John Rescue arrived on the scene by land soon after Roeksae was brought in.
“When St. John EMS got there, they did advanced life saving support, and they continued that while they took him off the beach, put him in the ambulance and went up to the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center,” said Marschall. “He was declared dead there at 12:10 p.m.”
In Shape, Good Swimmer
It took just over an hour from the time the man was discovered in the water until he was declared dead at MKSCHC, Marschall added.
The man, who appeared to be in shape, according to Mar-schall, did not have trouble swimming according to his wife’s statement.
“He and his wife had just been swimming around Cinnamon Cay right before that, and there was no indication he had any problems swimming,” said Mar-schall. “Cinnamon’s relatively protected, but it can get rough depending on the waves.”
VINP officials are now awaiting the results of the autopsy, scheduled to be done last week, which will determine the course of their investigation.
Autopsy To Determine Further Investigation
“If it was something like a heart attack, there won’t be any further investigation,” said Marschall. “If it was a drowning, we may just try to get some more witness statements. I think the main thing we’re looking at right now is just making sure our response was as good as it could have been — that the notification system was good, and that we had people there with the proper training quick enough.”
Marschall is pleased with the VINP’s response to the drowning incident, he explained.
“The outcome was tragic, but I think getting CPR relatively quickly and then having the automated external defibrillator available so soon are really the first two steps in an ideal life-saving situation that you want to meet,” said Marschall. “Having quick access to advanced life care, which we also had, is also important.”
A VINP vessel also interviewed boaters around the area to ensure there had not been a boat accident, and that there were no other victims, Marschall added.
No Indication of Accident
Despite the VINP’s best efforts, if the victim had been without a pulse for a while, there is nothing rescuers would have been able to do to save him.
“If he’d been pulseless for anywhere close to half an hour, or even 15 minutes, it’s very unlikely anything we did would’ve been able to bring him back,” said Marschall.
There was no bruising on the victim to indicate he had been struck by a boat or windsurfer, according to Marschall.
A man died earlier this year after suffering a heart attack while snorkeling off Solomon, and Cruz Bay Watersports employee Mary Davis died after falling ill while diving at Hawksnest in March.