Diving mayor had heart condition

Picture: Cambridge City Council.

Then-mayor of Cambridge Nigel Gawthrope, who died on a scuba diving holiday in South Africa as reported on Divernet in January 2019, had an undiagnosed heart condition.

The experienced diver and underwater photographer was eight months into his mayoral term when he died at Umkomaas on the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

Gawthrope, 61, was on his second boat-dive of the day at around noon when he indicated to his wife Jenny that he wanted to surface, an inquest in Huntingdon heard on 15 July, as reported by Cambridgeshire Live.

Back on the boat he was given oxygen and CPR and on shore paramedics continued attempts to resuscitate him before he was declared dead.

An initial post mortem five days later noted air-bubbles in the ventricles of his heart. Pathologist Dr John Grant pointed out in his report to the inquest that it was not known how the body had been stored and that decompression could lead to gases in the body that might not have been present at the time of death.

However, a further post mortem once Gawthrope’s body was back in the UK had recorded the medical cause of death as acute left ventricular failure, contributed to by ischemic heart disease.

21 July 2021

Cambridgeshire coroner Elizabeth Gray said that she accepted the conclusion and said that Gawthrope had been unaware of having a significant heart condition.

She described diving as a “physiologically challenging activity for anybody, but for somebody with undiagnosed coronary artery disease it was just too much.”

Her verdict was of death by natural causes.