2006-08-31 / News

Swain wrongful-death appeal pending

By Dotti Farrington

Expected in early September, another state Superior Court ruling is pending in the civil wrongfuldeath case against David Swain, a scuba dive shop operator and former Jamestown Town Council vice president.

Swain is appealing the finding in February by a six-member jury that he was responsible for the drowning death of his wife, educator Shelley Tyre, in 1999 during a dive he started with her in waters off Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

Swain is asking for his second 30-day extension for his filing of a brief in the appeal. He said he needs time to get a lawyer. His request for the extension has been challenged by Warwick Lawyer J. Renn Olenn, who represents Richard and Lisa Tyre of Jamestown, parents of Shelley Tyre. They did not argue against the first extension.

The Tyres initiated the wrongful death case when Swain refused to give them details of their daughter's fatal dive, and they received reports from other divers about irregularities surrounding her death.

Swain represented himself at the trial last winter after the court refused to extend more time for him to replace his original lawyer who was ill. After the jury verdict, Swain asked for a new trial on several claims, including his inability to get a lawyer. Associate Court Justice Patricia A. Hurst denied Swain's claims for a new trial in March. She said he had been given full opportunities to obtain legal representation. She also detailed how she saw that the evidence supported the jury finding. "The only reasonable conclusion was that this was a homicide," Hurst said. She also supported the jury award of $3.5 million plus interest to Shelley Tyre's parents as the minimum that was warranted in the case.

Swain spent at least half of the $1 million of his wife's estate

before a hold was placed on it via a lien on the Ocean State Scuba dive shop on North Main Road in Jamestown, which Shelly Tyre owned and Swain managed. The transfer of that property to the Tyres as part of the wrongful-death award also has been on hold, pending the outcome of Swain's appeal.

Swain also may be subject to criminal charges in Tortola, where officials are holding the case open, pending the resolution of the Rhode Island civil case. British Virgin Island officials originally ruled the death accidental "unless proven otherwise."

After the jury verdict, Swain was expelled from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, which describes itself as the world's largest scuba diving organization and sets standards for scuba instruction and certification. Swain has denied responsibility for his wife's death, but he admitted during the trial that he did not follow all of the association's protocols during and after her fatal dive.

Return to top