Tom Griffiths, Ed.D ::::
Case Synopsis: Good swimmers rarely drown, rather, they die of medical maladies not discovered during autopsy. Particularly in the safe confines of swimming pools and water parks, it is nearly impossible for good swimmers to drown. Unfortunately, for lifeguards and those who manage aquatic facilities, coroners are trained to conclude “drowning” whenever water enters the lungs. This puts defendants in a very poor position because most people who die in water will naturally take water into their lungs during the dying process through agonal breaths.
There are a myriad of medical maladies that claim the lives of apparently healthy swimmers in the water. In fact, the medical community labels and groups these disorders as Genetic “Drowning” Triggers. Seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, sudden cardiac arrests, strokes, shallow water blackout, Long Q-T disorder, RyR2 rogue drowning gene and many others are all attributed to sudden death in the water, even to the best of swimmers. Many of these disorders, do not however, show up at autopsy. The lesson here is to resist the urge to conclude a drowning has occurred, particularly when the deceased is a strong swimmer. Just as people die while jogging, biking, walking and sleeping, some people die while swimming. This sudden death or Sudden Submersion Syndrome as the United States Lifesaving Association calls it, is not necessarily a drowning and is not necessarily due to the negligence of the lifeguards on duty. Just because the Coroner’s rule “drowning” does not mean it is true. A strong, committed defense team is needed in these cases.