Visitor Dies of Heart Attack at Francis Bay

An 82-year-old Illinois man died of an apparent heart attack in the water just off Francis Bay beach in the V.I. National Park on Sunday morning, November 20.

“According to the VINP ranger’s report and from talking to the family members, the gentleman seems to have had heart issues, including heart surgery just a few weeks ago,” said VINP Chief Ranger Lloyd Morris.

Emergency responders were alerted to the incident, but due to Department of Health regulations, VINP officials were not to touch the body until officials from the Coroner’s Office arrived from St. Thomas, according to Morris.

“EMS and St. John Rescue did not move the body and we were advised by the Coroner’s Office to not do anything until they arrived,” he said.

While the incident appeared to be a drowning, the Illinois man most likely succumbed to a heart attack while swimming, Morris explained.

“It was likely a heart attack in the water,” he said. “Usually one’s mouth is full of snorkel gear or air and they will ingest some water, but not much, since it’s a heart attack. It’s one of those unfortunate things.”

People often don’t realize how much exercise they are getting in the water, Morris added.

“When you are swimming, you are literally exercising every muscle in your body,” said the VINP chief ranger. “It’s very good for the body, however, it does place a stress level on the body that sometimes, especially those of us who are elderly, can over-exert themselves.”

The death marked the third fatality of the year in VINP. A visitor died of a heart attack near Francis Bay over Memorial Day weekend and a cruise ship passenger at Solomon Beach on a snorkel trip with a charter company just last month also died from a likely heart attack, according to Morris.