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May 3, 2013

Dead from immersion syndrome, what is it?

Now, the Teul siblings were drown by their mother at Belizean Beach. But on Tuesday, post mortem examinations conducted by Dr. Mario Estradabran on the bodies of the kids stated that they died as a result of immersion syndrome.  That would be the second time in less than a week that the medical term would be used to determine cause of death.  By definition, immersion syndrome is sudden cardiac arrest upon cold immersion.  It may be the result of a cranial response, along with a narrowing of the blood vessels.  Traditionally, however, the Belizean public is more familiar with the expression ‘asphyxia due to drowning’.  So, since the term was relatively new, we consulted medical expertise to ascertain whether the expressions are indeed synonymous or, if in these cases, the term ‘immersion syndrome’ is being used out of context.


Dr. Fernando Cuellar, Medical Practitioner

Fernando Cuellar

“After the post mortem report came out I got a couple calls and some questioning about what does immersion syndrome mean.  Yes, it’s a recognized terminology.  If you look it up, if you Google it you will see it come up within the group of entities that would cause death.  In that same group you would have the drowning, the near drowning and of course the immersion syndrome.  Technically, from the information that I have, which everybody has, where the unfortunate events unfolded these younger children being found in the water dead, it should not be applied to this.  Immersion syndrome, number one has to do with the temperature of the water, it’s quite clear there and I don’t see us having zero to ten degree centigrade water in Belize, especially in the sea.  It’s usually related to cold water and there’s a reason for that, cold water does provoke other reactions of the body than warm water.  And if there is any time where it applies properly, I think we can safely say this was asphyxia by drowning.  I’m not sure if there’s some confusion in terms of the children actually being held under the water but there are other ways of finding that out, of course, if we had a proper forensic studies being done, if someone is physically being held because that person would be fighting back.  They can have evidence of other lesions on their body and not just looking at the lungs.  The regular ones, the drowning and the asphyxia, perhaps got a bit stale and they just wanted for immersion syndrome entity to sound sexier perhaps or more attractive, but technically speaking it’s different.”


Immersion syndrome first appeared in the news last Wednesday when the results of an autopsy indicated that fifty-seven-year-old Crecencio Mai died from it, after being found in a shallow pond on a property off the Old Northern Road.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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11 Responses for “Dead from immersion syndrome, what is it?”

  1. Bear says:

    Dr. Estradabran must have learned a new term, and wants to use it everywhere now. It can supplement his usual, “Cause of death cannot be determined due to decomposition.”

    Worst medical examiner money can buy!

  2. France says:

    The problem with Belize, we are why behind science, forensic science is a broad area which has it’s own terminologies and forensic languages. Dr. Cuellar is a clinical physician which we hold respect for, but he failed the ethics in medicine. Dr, Estradabran is a certify forensic specialist who has try for many years to work with what he has. The word immersion could mean many factors in google, but in the forensic terminology it is indicated that the children were hold down in the water it does not matter the weather as in clinical medicine would describe but it is a factor, this indicates that an act of a crime is committed. The same term used with the gentleman that was found dead in the water. Drowning asphyxia is a term used when the person went into the water and drown cause by no one other by himself. So immersion – to hold something down is indicating to the investigator what and how the crime was committed. Forensic professionals knows what they are looking for and what type of investigations to carry out in crime cases. Unfortunately our police department lacks many professionals and knowledge as to where forensic is concern so this makes the Forensic specialist work even harder.I am sure that most cases are lost due to the police not knowing how to conduct the proper forensic investigations leaving the Forensic doctor work going down the drain. I don’t think Dr. Estradabran is not trying to use knew words here, there are many more sexy terms coming up specially those postmortems done on clinical malpractice these are not in the spot light at all. If these cases would come to light a lot of sexy terms will surface and these are the cases that need to be investigated. Get educated, ignorance only create problems and hold back.

  3. Cuellar says:

    Every time Dr. Estradabran say something different, there is a lot of controversy. why Dr. Cuellar does not comment on mal practice and the sexy terms used to kill those that should still be here with us. Ignorance is 90% in this country when it comes to Forensic Science and clinical doctors as you can see and here needs to back and take ethics.

  4. Neville says:

    Dr. Cuellar seems to have the facts on his side. I looked up “immersion syndrome” in some online medical resources, and they all referred to problems caused by PROLONGED EXPOSURE TO COLD WATER.

    Here’s one, but they all were about the same:

    Immersion syndrome

    “Immersion syndrome is caused by prolonged exposure to wet conditions at temperatures from 50 degrees F to 32 degrees F (10 degrees C to 0″ C). Immersion foot, trench foot, and trench hand are types of immersion syndrome injuries. Signs of immersion syndrome include blisters, swelling, redness, skin hot to the touch, and bleeding. Immersion syndrome usually occurs in three stages.”

    Doesn’t sound like any of that applies to the drowned children, who were a few minutes UNDER our warm water! It’s strange that GOB insists on paying Dr. Estradabran to be the medical examiner, when he might be the least competent physician to do it in the country.

    I wonder how many murderers have escaped justice because of the good doctor’s mistakes?

  5. EM says:

    Estradaban is an idiot!!

  6. GuestK says:

    The two terms “Immersion Syndrome” and “asphyxia due to drowning” are in no way synonymous and should not be used interchangeably. Belize is in need of more and better forensic personnel!! If only we had more fields of study dedicated in those areas!

  7. twosweetinez says:

    What happens if Mario Estrada was to die today,Who would do the postmortem?Shame on the GOB that in the year 2013 this is what Belizeans got to be dealing with.What about sending some Belizean to the US or England tto do some Forensic training.Talking about victimization of Belizea Citizens that speak against the corrupt system,that Barrow is good at.

  8. Belize+Ignorance says:

    Only in Belize can Estradabran be considered a forensic pathologist without being properly I remember he had a general practitionerss office on Hydes Lane and without leaving the country he becomes a pathologist. ONLY IN BELIZE. it is obvous in all his diagnosis given this man is not qualified.
    the picture for Belize is wosrt however, because Boots is a civil engineer, Marin is a Public Health doctor, and Castro is a marine biologist and agronomist. you get the picture, Belize promotes ignorance..

  9. says:

    If Estradaban dies today, we have other competent individuals to carry out that work. However, due to the bureaucracy, corruption and favoritism in this country others cannot progress. I wonder what Estradaban holds over the administration to be “indispensable”?

  10. Storm says:

    Our nation is too small to raise enough home-grown geniuses and experts to run it at a high level of competence in every field. I have no problem looking for foreign talent and ideas to help us have an effective nation and government. So here are my 2 small ideas on that subject:

    1. We could look for a recently retired, EXPERIENCED foreign [Brit or American, because of the language] medical examiner / coroner / forensic pathologist [choose your term, they' all doctors for dead people] to come here and enjoy retirement in our tropical Jewel, while earning some additional retirement income by performing autopsies competently. If such a person could solve even one murder that escapes Estradabran’s skills, it would be a good investment. My guess it would be much better than that.

    2. We should not appoint elected representatives to run cabinet ministries — the skills to get elected have nothing to do with the expertise needed for Ministry of Health, or Education, etc., etc., etc. And as it is seen with Santi, he claims his ministerial obligations are so heavy he is “missing in action” from his district and cannot serve the very people who elected him! SO, LET’S DISCONNECT THE CABINET FROM ELECTED MINISTERS, AND USE THE AMERICAN SYSTEM, WHERE THE PRESIDENT APPOINTS A CABINET [WITH LEGISLATIVE CONSENT] OF ACTUAL EXPERTS EXPERIENCED IN THEIR FIELDS. Why not have a physician or master of public health to run the health ministry, for example?

    So, what do you think of those 2 proposals? Agree or disagree?

  11. Think-About-It says:

    Agree 100% with Storm.

    But in cabinet government it is admittedly hard to divorce elected politicians from ministerial posts, so maybe a middle ground is to go back to the idea of NON-POLITICAL technocrats as permanent secretaries and forget the whole failed CEO experiment.

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