Competitive swimmer and tourist both die at sea

| 27/05/2013

(CNS) Updated 4:57pm: Police have now named the two men who died in separate water-related incidents this weekend. Pablo Jose Perez Iarza, a member of the Uruguay Special Olympic team, who was in the Cayman Islands to participate in the Butterfield 800 meter swim, was found dead in the ocean off Seven Mile Beach on Saturday afternoon during the race. Suspected of having a cardiac arrestwhile competing, the police confirmed Monday that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. In a second incident, Joseph Edward Johnson of Flagstaff, Arizona, who was visiting the Cayman Islands on vacation, drowned at Rum Point on Sunday when he got into difficulties in rough waters around the reef. An attempted daring rescue by the police helicopter unit was unable to save the man’s life.

Police said Iarza (41) was pulled from the water unconscious in the vicinity of the Avalon Condos on Saturday 25 May at about 4:25 pm after emergency personnel were dispatched to the scene. He was taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town, where he was pronounced dead at around 5:07pm.

Officials from the local Olympic Committee, Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Limited and the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association (CIASA) offered condolences to the family and friends of Iarza.

"This is a great loss for the Special Olympics movement and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his coach, his teammates and all of Special Olympics Uruguay," the leadership of Special Olympics International said in a statement Monday. SOCI Chairman Nick Freeland thanked medical personnel and said the precise cause of death was being determined by the hospital.

In a separete incident on Sunday, the emergency services received a report at 4:15pm that 64-year-old Joseph Edward Johnson had been missing in the water around Rum Point Drive for more than 25 minutes. A spokesperson for the RCIPS said Monday that a marine, air and land based rescue was immediately deployed. 

The police helicopter was the first unit to arrive at the location – some four minutes after the report, the RCIPS stated. The helicopter crew spotted the missing man on the reef in the Driftwood area, about 50 yards from shore. Marine and land based resources were a short distance away but due to the urgency of the situation, the helicopter crew made the tactical decision to hover and deplane one of their tactical flight officers onto the shore.

The helicopter hovered about three feet from the beach and the officer alighted. Together with two of the missing man’s friends, he went out into the water to bring him back to shore. The wave height at the time was around 2-3 feet and crashing across the reef, the police said as they described the daring rescue attempt.

In the meantime, the helicopter landed nearby and the second tactical flight officer attended the beach with the medical equipment and the AED. CPR was carried out on the man until the arrival of the EMT unit a few minutes later. Johnson was then taken to the hospital in George Town, where he was pronounced dead at 5:40pm.

Police said that post mortem examinations would be held in due course.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is very sad. Condolences to the families.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Condolences to the families of both victims. I would like to commend the first responders on scene for the open water swim. They worked tirelessly to attempt to sustain life until the ambulance arrived. Perhaps for future open water swim events, ambulatory services will be on-call at the site of the swim to cut down on response time for any incidents. However, given the circumstances of this particular tragedy, it wouldn't have necessarily made a difference.

    My heart goes out to the friends and family, and my support as well to those who attempted to rescue these two individuals.

  3. 4 Cayman says:

    My condolences go out to the family for the loss. However, there’s a lot of questions regarding safety. How was this allowed to happen considering there were people participating that required special needs? Where there not sufficient volenteers? Why was it medical personnel were dispatch to the scene, shouldn’t they have been on site during the swim meet? Where there any review of the participants health prior to allow them to swim? Again these are special need people who should have been thoroughly checked before allowing to swim.

    I believe there should be adequate life guards, medical technicians and volenteers at these swim meets. Very unfortunate and sad.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I thought that events such as 800 meters swim always supervised by rescuers. Condolences to the families of deceased.