Man dies after chopper rescue

| 03/06/2011

(CNS)Updated Monday 10am – A man who was airlifted from East End in the police helicopter Friday died despite the air rescue. Officials said that Daniel Hamilton was from Indiana in the US and was only 21 years old. He had arrived in the Cayman Islands one week ago to work as a volunteer with the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme (BIRP). Police enquiries are ongoing but a spokesperson stated that there appeared to be no suspicious circumstances about the death. Daniel  was pursing a science degree in wildlife and officials from the project, who were shocked and saddened by his death, said he was an outstanding volunteer.  The police helicopter had been deployed for the first time in a local on land airlift medical emergency in an effort to rescue Daniel,  who had collapsed while working out in the bush .

The police received the report that he had taken ill, possibly from heat exhaustion, around 2:15 Friday afternoon about a mile to a mile and a half inland from the East End public beach. Due to the location, vehicles from the ambulance, fire and police services were unable to reach him so the RCIPS Air Operations Unit was deployed with a medic on board.

Machetes were dropped down from the chopper to his friends on the ground, who cleared the bush for the helicopter to land.

Paramedics had abandoned their ambulances and had walked for 20 minutes into the bush to reach the man, who was unconscious and unresponsive. They stabilised the patient and then assisted the man's friends to help cut down enough vegetation to accommodate the helicopter.

Once the chopper landed it was able to take the sick man, who was suspected of suffering from heat stroke, on board and immediately airlifted him to George Town. The helicopter then landed at the Cricket Field, where an ambulance was waiting to transport him to the Cayman Islands Hospital.

A statement released from the Blue Iguana Recover Programme said that Daniel had been pursuing a Bachelor of Science  Degree in Wildlife at Purdue University, Indiana. He had spoken of a lifelong fascination with reptiles, and that from the moment he first saw the Blue Iguanas at an exhibit in the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago he knew he wanted to play a part in their rescue.

Daniel's volunteer application was outstanding and he had done fieldwork with salamanders in state forests in Indiana, had learned techniques like radio tracking, tagging and navigation, and his enthusiasm sparkled in his communications as he prepared to come to Grand Cayman, the release said.

"In his short time with us, Daniel launched himself wholeheartedly into the work of the programme, first at the captive breeding facility in the QEII Botanic Park, then at Salina Reserve inland from the Queen's Highway, and finally in the new Reserve in Colliers, East End. There, he and two other international volunteers were preparing for this year's release of Blue Iguanas, scheduled to take place in July," BIRP stated.

"The staff and current volunteers with the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and the Council and staff of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands are deeply shocked and saddened by Daniel's unexpected passing and extend their heartfelt sympathy and condolences to his family and friends. Thanks and recognition are also extended to the emergency services who did everything possible to save Daniel."

Expressions of condolence can be sent via email to: or posted on the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme Facebook page and BIRP will arrange for these thoughts to reach Daniel's family.

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  1. Respectfully says:

    How very sad to say the least. 

    A good person doing what he loves in another man's country to further goodness in respect of Mother Nature.

    The family and his Fiancée must feel completely shattered, devastated…  Love and Peace to all affected.

    Thank you to Daniel Hamilton from the Cayman Islands.  You did not deserve this.

    May God rest his soul.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Condolences to this young mans family.The question needs to be answered of how this was allowed to happen?He was under the supervision of local people who know the area.Were they not able to take note of the onset of heat exhaustion, which presents before heat stroke?It is an avoidable tragedy that should not have happened.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Are some of you really using this article as a platform for your views about the Caymain Islands and the Blue Iguana.  This article is about how a young man died doing something he loved.  This is not the place for anything other than condolences to the family and friends of the young man.  If you have something to say about anything else find another place to post it.  Have enough respect not to make this article about you and your opinions and keep it about sorrow for a young man's life cut short.


    To the parents and friends of Daniel Hamilton I send my dearest condolences.

  4. Anonymous says:

    My deepest condolences to the family of this young man who was giving of himself.

  5. Right ya so says:

    So sad. Condolences to his family and friends.

  6. Anonymous says:

    911 help = idiot . Young man dies here on a project to try and help an endangered species and just a few years ago young caymanians let their half breed pit bulls kill a bunch of them. The island would be better left to people who value what is left and the rest should go well…to Miami.

  7. Anonymous says:

    With regard to naming a part of the park – why not the gate/entry way and/or walkway into the park?  Let Hamilton's footsteps and dedication lead everyone into something he valued with his life.

  8. 911 HELP says:

    My deepest sympathy to the family and friends…. Now on another note if man would stop messing with nature everything would be ok… The iguanas were doing fine when Christopher Columbus found them and they would be better off if we stop spoon feeding them turning them into handicaps leave them in the wild..I hate to hear people messing with nature because they always MESS it up one way or the other or die trying to think like an animal.Then they going to tell you we only have such a small number of them left in the world when the truth is they have NO CLUE WHAT-SO-EVER.  I can remember a few years ago they tried to tell us there is only so much cayman parrots left how in the world are they going to count birds that flying everyday way in land all over this island maybe we could hire the helicopter to help us get a better count on these birds too.

    • Anonymous says:

      "911 you need Help."

      Firstly when Christopher Columbus found the islands and subsequently the indigenous iguanas, there were no people inhabiting the islands. People and development of the island have forced these original inhabitants out of their natural environment. Over the years their numbers  diminished to almost extinction. If it wasn't for Mr Burton and the efforts of his team the Blue Iguana may have been lost forever.

      Secondly the Iguanas raised through this program are released into the wild at the Salina reserve and not spoon fed as you mention. Mr Hamilton was helping to develop a new reserve so that more Iguanas can be released into the wild.

      You are somewhat right in your assumption that man is interferring with nature. Destruction of rainforests and pollution of seas are all due to man and his lack of respect for the natural environment. Thankfully there are people who do not share your uneducated views.

  9. Whodatis says:

    First of all, my sincere and deepest condolences to the young man's family and friends.

    This was a very unfortunate turn of events and kudos to all who played a role in the unorthodoxed rescue mission.

    However, I must address the other issue regarding the calls to name the enitre park after Mr. Hamilton.

    We have MANY Caymanians that are playing a role and are constantly campaigning on the behalf of various wildlife and environmental matters. The recent great uproar surrounding the North Sound and the proposedport in East End are but a few.

    Where I / we appreciate the efforts and ultimate sacrifice made by Mr. Hamilton, to rename the entire reserve / project after him is a bit much in my opinion.

    These are our Blue Iguanas, they are indigenous to our island and we have lots of our people dedicated to the mission.

    I grew up in a country where almost every facet of our existence and infrastructure was endorsed or dedicated by various outside elements – I am looking forward to a future where a much greater and wider "Caymanian" stamp is affixed to many more of our sites and landmarks.

    I am not against reserving a special area to Mr. Hamilton, or even dedicating a plaque, month, memorial etc. to his memory, but to call for the renaming of the entire park is quite uncalled for and over the top.

    Lastly, for clarity as I am certain some will attempt to turn my post into something other than intended, I am in no way "against" or unappreciative of Mr. Hamilton – he ended up making the ultimate sacrifice for his chosen career path.

    Instead, I am focused on the future legacy and namesake of an entity as rare and unique as the Cayman Blue Iguana.

    R.I.P. Mr. Hamilton.

    • Anonymous says:

      How ungrateful of you.  Shameful, considering that this young man, Daniel, (I will call his name, so you realize this is a person, not a statistic) died while performing a service for your country – the ultimate sacrifice.  I wonder what your response would be if the shoe were on the other foot and you were a member of his family or one of his parents back home?  What a loss for his family and loved ones. Can you even try to imagine what that must feel like, can you show empathy for his folks, express gratitude without reservation, and do the decent and honourable thing by supporting the call to name the park after him?   Sure, Caymanians are involved in wildlife conservation, however how does that detract from the fact that Daniel died during his service and rightfully deserves the highest recognition for his sacrifice?  Which 21-year old Caymanian do you see out in the dry bush, rocks and heat, sweating and working hard to do what Daniel did, at the risk of their comfort and health?  You might probably see them camping out on beaches on public holiday weekends, that's probably about it. And when they're done, they leave a grand mess behind for others to clean up.  I support the naming of the entire park after Daniel Hamilton – all those who would like to see otherwise, ask yourself why you don't support that, what is the real reason (i.e. god forbid we name anything after foreigners, no matter what their contribution is), and finally, ask yourself, what have you done lately for Cayman.   

      • Whodatis says:

        " I am certain some will attempt to turn my post into something other than intended … "

        I guess you missed that bit.

    • Name changed by moderator says:

      Short term memory. Do you not remember all the UK young poorly paid volunteers that came out in the 60/70s to work with Dr Giglioli two of whom were lost in the mangrove for 24 hours. One of those was John Davies who later took the good doctors job carrying on his fine work. Cayman needs remember these fine people whose tradition has obviously been carried on by Mr Hamilton. The government needs recognize his fine deeds now, in some form or the other.

    • Whodatis says:

      Dear Respondents,

      I appreciate and support all forwarded dialogue in this regard.

      However, unfortunately (once again) CNS has blocked and removed my replies to your posts, therefore a balanced and fair exchange between the concerned parties is not possible on this particular subject.

      Nevertheless, feel free to revel in your misguided assumptions and conclusions about my home country – as well as your own for that matter.

       – Whodatis

      * Sorry your name and memory has been attached to such unfortunate bickering Daniel.

    • Anonymous says:

      You grew up on an island, not in a Country, one that very disturbingly has a very poor taste habit of naming things for living people, who quite frankly have done little more than what they get paid to do. I could name a few but why bother, you know exactly what I'm talking about. That is where you grew up.

      Anyway, hardly worth arguing about something so trivial, a young life was tragically lost and the focus must now be on how to ensure that this tradgedy never repeats itself, nothing more.

    • Dropova At says:

      Cayman's local government names everything it can after two bit local civil servants.  It is ridiculous.  This proposal to give the man a memorial of thanks would show we are above the petty narrow minded nationalism of Whodatis and his ilk.  If this proposal does not go through it will be end up be name the Jimbob Ebanks Park by a politician anyway.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This young man died doing something positive for our environment. What a great example he was. A visitor helping to save a piece of our environment whilst some of our own people seem intent on destroying it .

    Wouldn't it be fitting if the new Blue Iguana reserve was named after Mr Hamilton.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The honorable thing to do is to name the park after the kid. This would bethe right thing to do. Let us for once show our gratitude by inviting his family down for the official opening of the blue iguana park. God  bless his family and may his soul rest in peace 

  12. Anonymous says:

    I just read the updated story and find my eyes filled with tears as I type this. Thank you, Daniel.

    To Daniel's family, my deepest condolences.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Please unless you have something kind to say or respectful of those involved. please dont.. many who care and are deeply affected by this will be Hurt.

    even if you do not agree or have different feelings about the project or what happened.

    please at this time just be kind.  thank you


  14. Anonymous says:

    Condolences to the family of a very special young man.

    Special thanks to everyone who tried to save his life.  It good to know that so many people tried very hard to save him.

  15. Anonymous says:

    My sincere condolences to the young man's family.

    He was not born here yet volunteer to help up save and enhance something that was, our Blue Iguanas. This is to be admired and respected. 

    May he rest in peace.

  16. Anonymous says:

    This man here was one of my best friends. He would've given up his house for any kind of reptile. He died doing what he loved, and it's terrible. But I know that he is never truly gone. He'll always be in my heart and I have him in my memories to help him keep on living. He might not be here physically, but he's still here. Rest in Peace my friend. You'll be truly, truly missed.

  17. Anonymous says:

    This was a dear friend of mine! This kid would do anything for any animal, but espeically for the reptiles. He will be missed very much as I did see his family today!  He left some really good friends family and a beautiful fiance! He will be truely missed! RIP BUDDY!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Goodbye friend

  19. Anonymous says:

    R.I.P dear friend

  20. Caymanians for logic says:

    I certainly hope that the Government/Police will do a thorough investigation on this incident and indeed this entire programme. The programme should be suspended until the final report is completed and operational systems put in place to ensure this tragic accident does not occur again.

    Clearly our country cannot endorse a programme that puts anyone's life at this level of risk, for any reason.  

    Condolences to the family in Indiana.

    • Anonymous says:

      Does Caymanians for logic then, also suggest we chop down all coconut palms, since 150 people per year die from that?  Shall we close down Stingray City since Steve Irwin died from a stingray?  Or perhaps we should shut down the diving industry since some people die diving as well.  Living life to the fullest includes taking risks.  This was a tragic accident and I'm sure all precautions possible were taken.

      • Caymanians for logic says:

        Just trying to ensure others in this programme do not end up in same situation.  I agree it was a tragic incident. Don't get too excited that I call for an investigation. Not against Blue Iguana programme at all, Fred and the others are doing a great job, just want to ensure that if a special protocol of fluids/pre-hydration, rests stops, medical protocols/equipment, communication gear, island acclimatization, etc is needed, that these are built into these trips inland. 

        For years even the hardiest of East Enders and North Siders have succumbed to that terrain and heat much less someone from the north. Last Friday at that time was a hot humid day, even on the coastline.

        Lets be logical here and try to ensure that this tragedy does not re-occur.

        Condolences again to His family.



    • Hmmm... says:

      How frickin illogical is that?  Suggest you change your name.

  21. The Jacobs' Family says:

    This young man came from a very special close knit family. He was loving, caring  and kind.  A quiet  person with few words but deeply effective to those around him… He was respectful and giving.. He had a love and passion for people and animals.  He wrote how beautiful it was there and wished his family could be with him to experience it…. He was doing what he loved.. He always accepted and respected people no matter who they were and found the best in all.  If most of us could have been more like him in many ways,  or at least learned from his character and personality; what a place for all to live. We have two rescue pets and only two people were special enough to care for them while we were away and he was one of them. You know how special someone is when you're away your pets dont miss a beat.  He was in college and took his time, when off, to help us out.. 

    This is also for those he met in the Cayman's to know him in way you may have had the opportunity to…


     All I can say is he is very loved and is very much missed and always will be~

    We are truly saddened by the Loss and a huge one it is~



  22. Anonymous says:

    CNS it might be nice to know a few details of this young man when it is appropriate. Why did he choose to come here, how did he get here, what is his background etc etc Only for the sake of letting the public know that the world has a lot of caring giving people and we were fortunate enough to be visited by one albeit only for a little while. God rest his soul and I hope his work has not been in vain! The best thing we can do it continue to save the Blues so that he did not die for nothing!


  23. Anonymous says:

    CNS, would it not be a good idea to review the postings when the article has such a tragic turn as this.  Some of the original posters do not intend to be disrespectful, but that is the way it appears when the headline becomes so different. 

    With condolences to the family of the young man, and respect to the friends and colleagues with him at the time, the very hard work of the EMS and fire officers in a very difficult situation, and the helicopter people all doing their best, they will all be deeply saddened by the outcome.

    Rest in peace young man, thank you for coming to Cayman to help make a difference.

  24. Anonymous says:

    A 21 year old man with a life ahead of him has lost his life for the sake of saving a bunch of iguanas. what a travesty. this whole " save an iguana" piece of s**t needs to stop. if someone can tell me the value these creatures has brought to the cayman islands, i would be happy to hear. all that they have done is become a pest for farmers and home owners who have tomatoes and other vegetation in their back yards. ask any local person their views on these damn iquanas and see what they say. they have never been a part of cayman's history.

    • Anonymous says:

      Whoever wrote this reply should have a look at their life. The Blue Iguana has been here way before any 'Caymanians' ever touched this rock.  Have a little respect.  I think you may be confused with the green iguana which is originally from Central America and is relatively new to these shores.

      I would like to know how much volunteering you actually do..or does require some form of payment?

      Rest in Peace volunteer

    • Anonymous says:

      With all due respect, WTF did any of the iguanas do to cause this poor man to die?  He came here to work with them, that does not mean they were responsible for this unfortunate tragedy… try keep some perspective on the issue at hand for goodness sake.  Whatever caused him to die most likely would have happened no matter where he was in the world or what he was doing.

      My sincere condolences to the family of this poor unfortunate young man.

    • Paradise Lost says:

      A young man volunteers to provide help to one of God's creatures, perishes and you have the indignation to post this rubbish.  Heaven help your soul.  You apparently need it.   

    • Anonymous says:

      Some things are worth saving and some people are not.   Some views are worth experessing and some are better left unsaid.  Your value to the local people would be more if you were silent and tend to your tomatoes.

    • Anonymous says:

      UMMM, they were here long before you!!! I can't believe that people are arguing about iguanas when the article is about Mr. Hamilton who passed away tragically!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Deepest sympathies to the family of the young man.

  26. Anonymous says:

    CNS, the post dont reflect the changed news article. We are all saddened by the young mans death. Condolences to the family.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Special mention to the firemen who walked miles into the east end bush, assisted the paramedics in attempting to carry out the patient and cut and cleared the area for the helicopter to land. Job well done to Martinez, Morales and McCoy! You guys are true heroes!

  28. Anonymous says:

    So sad that no one has commented on the young man's passing. Many thanks to all those who participated in the rescue effort.  And sincere sympathies to the family and friers of this fine young man who came to Cayman as a volunteer to help our beloved blues.

  29. Anonymous says:

    This is so sad.  Deepest sympathies to his family.

  30. awlymilykins says:

    So very sorry to learn that young man died! How unselfish for him to have given up his life in Indiana to volunteer for the Blue Iguana Recovery Project! How many young Caymanian men would be willing to take his place in helping with this project, eh?? I wish I could afford to come back home with my children. They, thankfully, are animal/nature lovers and would definitely hit the trails for this project. May his soul rest in peace. 

    • Anonymous says:

      My deepest condolences to the young man and his family.

      It is totally disgusting to say the least that people from other countries have to come here and volunteer their time for the Blue Iguana Recovery Project.  This just goes to show you how "ambitious" our young caymanians are.  I for one am so sick and tired of hearing "hire Caymanian".  This poor young man lost his life in a foreign country to save our Iguanas…how ironic!!!!


  31. Anymous says:

    Aint sorry about saying it but that helicopter is doing a darn good job on this Islands.  Thanks

  32. The lone Haranguer says:

    3.5 billion dollars well spent then………………..

  33. Anonymous says:

    Well done to RCIPS helicopter crew, these guys are getting on with the job asked, quietly and efficiently. I appreciate what you are doing, way to go!

  34. Anonymous says:

    What price for a life saved.  Well done the RCIPS chopper and the EMS for a job well done in really difficult circumstances.  The people of Cayman should be proud of their emergency services.


    • Anonymous says:

      In reality lives are indeed priced.  Transport officials did not install barriers to underground stations until enough people had been killed to do it.  Truck trailers were not fitted with bars to prevent cars going under them until enough people had been killed.   Airplanes did not have cargo fire suppression installed until enough people had been killed.

      Truth is, that cost effectiveness, risk assessment and statistics all play a part.  The comment of the baby dying because they did not have the machine to save it, is likely because not enough babies are born with the typeof problem that particular one had.   Therefore it is not worth buying the machine to save just one or two lives. If we bought every type of life saving device to save as many lives as possible the country would be bankrupt.

  35. Anonymous says:


  36. Anonymous says:

    Good job.  Thank goodness for the helicopter.  Many people complain about the coast of the helicopter but seems to me that it has been utilised more than once for a rescue.  I think the money spent is worth the lives saved.

  37. Anonymous says:

    one life saved.  money well spent,we can where the money went ppm

    • Anonymous says:

      What about the baby that died a few years ago, because the hospital didnt have the machine to save it.  Why didnt we spend the money on that machine too.  Why is it one life is worth more than another?

      • Anonymous says:

        It's not.

        It would seem that one organization was able to accomplish their goal and another was not – probably through no fault of their own.

        It's moments like this we must be reminded that we are a community, we are in this all together and we must work together to do what we can to make the Cayman Islands the best place possible to live.


        • Anonymous says:

          Its the very same organisation – GOVERNMENT!  Try saying that to the baby's parents!

    • Anonymous says:

      Hope the young man is diong well,  Guess what they did NOT MENTION THE FACT, That "Firemen" cutt the path out and where a major part of this rescue it is there job.

    • anonymous says:

      just silly post–do you guys just live in this tribal state of UDP/PPM all the time?…….this was not even one of the 6 reasons the government gave for purchasing this expensive tool.


      Agree is was worth saving the life…no value can be given on that….