Ken Kurtis' reply from Scubaboard

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Posted by Max Bottomtime on June 23, 2009 at 17:27:25:

In Reply to: Re: Tragedy at Casino Point posted by Randy on June 23, 2009 at 14:18:45:

As some of you who read this forum already know, I am a Forecnsic Consutlant for the Los Anegles County Coroner in scuba fatalties. Even this tehcnically isn't a scuba death (since it occured during a free-dive following a scuba dive), I've been in touch with the Coroner and we dicussed this a bit.

After seeing SVThuh's post, I called in and double-checked and would like to clarify a few things:

1. The autopsy has NOT been done. It will be done Tuesday morning (6/23).

2. Obviously, no conclusions have been reached by the Coroner since the autopsy hasn't been done.

3. In the course of the overall investigation, the Coroner has talked with the family and some of the possible causes of death were discussed. This may be where "the autopsy concluded" impression came from.

4. Although the autopsy will be conducted tomorrow, it is likely to be 6-8 weeks until an official Cause of Death (COD) is determined. This is to allow time for toxicology reports, equipment testing (if we do any - looks doubtful given the circumstances as known now), and other things.

5. There is no test to establish, with medical certainty, Shallow-Water Blackout as a cause of death. While itt may be a possibility, that conclusion would more likely come form bystander and eyewitness intrviews. Given that no one seems to have actually witnessed when he went unconscious, my educated layman's opinion is that a conclusion of SWB is unlikely. (To be clear, this doesn't mean it couldn't have happened, just that it couldn't be stated with enough medical certainty to be included in the report.)

6. Drowning is a diagnosis of exclusion. In other words, you rule everything else out (heart attack, seizure, etc.) and you're left with drowning as the only other possibility.

7. Water in the lungs doesn't mean you drowned. (It could have entered post-mortem.) Absence of water in the lungs doesn't mean you didn't drown (known as "dry drowning").

I hope that helps clear things up a bit. I'm happy to answer any questions I can. And if you have any first-hand information about this accident, please feel free to contact me directly and I'll put you in touch with the Coroner's Investigator handling this case.

- Ken
Ken Kurtis
NAUI Instr. #5936
Owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
Beverly Hills, CA

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