A ‘fit and healthy’ Cambridge graduate died of ‘sudden adult death syndrome’ after collapsing in the family pool, an inquest heard.
Dominic Hamlyn, 24, died hours after friends pulled him from the water during his youngest brother’s 21st birthday celebrations on July 27 last year.
The accomplished athlete is the son of specialist neurosurgeon Peter Hamlyn, who saved boxer Michael Watson’s life when he was injured during a world title fight with Chris Eubank in 1991.
An inquest at Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone, Kent, heard that the promising scholar died of natural causes.
The court heard Dominic was a ‘very fit, healthy young man’ who had embarked on an underwater swimming competition with one of his brother’s friends during the early hours.
His father and other guests performed CPR as paramedics scrambled to the family’s £3 million farmhouse in Crundale, near Ashford in Kent.
Dominic was rushed to William Harvey Hospital, but he died 15 hours later.
Dr Hamlyn said in a statement provided to the inquest that his son ‘had certainly been drinking but he was not incapable’.
He added: ‘It was a very well behaved party and I’m not aware of any drugs being involved. Dominic had stayed sober until the speeches.
‘Dominic tackled Tomas [Ter-Reehorst, his brother’s friend] into the water, and after it quietened down they discussed how far they could swim under water.
‘Dominic had a party trick. He could swim lengths of our pool underwater. He explained if you took deep breaths and swam steadily you could go further than you think.
‘Tomas said he went for one and a half lengths and had to come up. Dominic went on.
‘He was chatting to his girlfriend Alicia who had got out of the hot tub and was planning to challenge Dominic to another competition.
‘They saw he was unresponsive under the water so she dropped in to pull him out. I’m advised it was within seconds rather than minutes.’
Dr Hamlyn described how ‘hysterical’ guests rushed to get him, but he remained calm and didn’t think anything serious had happened.
The court heard that impression quickly changed when he desperately took over from one of his son’s friends performing CPR.
He continued: ‘He was completely unresponsive. I turned him over to get the water out his lungs and carried on the CPR.
‘He wasn’t even coughing. He was just floppy. I was determined, I was just thinking that once the paramedics got here and it would be OK.’
Speaking at the inquest, Dr Hamlyn said he and his wife of 25 years Geraldine Shepherd were ‘blessed’ by having ‘three extraordinary’ sons.
He added: ‘I’m not only his father, I am material witness to what happened, and I have expertise in the area of what happened. Dominic was doing nothing unusual for himself or indeed for anyone.
‘It was a routine thing we had seen him do since he was a child. He usually went for four or five lengths.’
Experts had initially disagreed over the cause of accomplished scholar and athlete’s death.
Dr Olaf Biedrzycki, a pathologist asked to give an overall opinion on the cause of death, suggested ‘shallow water blackout’ was a contributing factor, leading to Dominic inhaling a significant quantity of water that caused multiple organ failure.
Others, such as Dominic’s father and UCL professor of cardiology Dr Perry Elliot, suggested a primary cardiac condition sparked an event similar to what professional footballer Fabrice Muamba suffered during a Bolton match in 2012.
Dr Biedrzycki suggested Dominic could have caused himself to blackout underwater if he had pushed himself further than usual.
But he said on the balance of probability there was a chance that he suffered sudden adult death syndrome, something he’d seen only once in 10,000 post-mortems.
He told the inquest: ‘The bottom line is you have the choice of shallow water blackout, which is likely if someone is doing something new or beyond what they have done before. Neither of those are the case here.
‘The cardiac condition is an unpredictable event. It can happen randomly and spontaneously.’
Dominic’s mother sobbed as Assistant Coroner Scott Matthewson told the inquest ‘there was nothing more that could have been done’ for her son, who ‘had the world at his feet’.
He added: ‘Nobody will ever be able to say with certainty what the medical cause was, but I accept all the evidence put to me.
‘The medical cause of death was acute cardiac arrhythmia – sudden adult death syndrome.’
After studying at The King’s School, Dominic went on to University College London, graduating with a first-class degree in science and engineering in 2017.
The accomplished student then studied for a Master of Philosophy at Cambridge’s Judge Business School.
Outside of his studies, Dominic helped found an online retail business and was a talented rugby player.
He represented UCL’s 1st XV and was elected as the university’s sports officer in his final year.
In 2014, he ran the London Marathon in aid of The Brain & Spine Foundation – for which he raised nearly £5,700.
The family did not want to speak after the inquest but are expected to release a statement through their solicitors.