James Alexander, 24, Drowns off Solomon Beach

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James Alexander, above, died while free diving with his twin brother off shore of Solomon Beach.

St. John mourned the tragedy of another untimely death last week.

About 100 people gathered at Cinnamon Bay on Monday, April 23, to remember 24-year-old James Alexander, who died while free diving off Solomon Bay beach just days before.

Alexander and his twin brother had hiked out to Solomon Bay beach on Friday, April 20, and decided to go for a free dive, explained V.I. National Park Deputy Superintendent Mike Anderson.

“I understand they had done this before where they went for a hike together and then swam off-shore and went free diving,” said Anderson. “I understand that both brothers were competitive swimmers and in very good physical condition.”

This time, however, Alexander never surfaced after free diving without fins or a mask or snorkel. A passing boat in the Solomon Bay area called Marine Channel 16 around 3:30 p.m. and reported a swimmer in distress.

VINP lifeguards, Caneel Bay dive officials, St. John Rescue, EMTs, V.I. Police Department and private boats from St. John and Lovango Cay responded to the incident, but it was too late, explained Anderson.

Alexander’s body was found on the sea floor in about 35 to 41 feet of water and he was not breathing, the VINP Deputy Superintendent explained.

“When VINP got there, the body had already been recovered from the water,” said Anderson. “He had been underwater and was not breathing then and he was not breathing when we found him.

One of our lifeguards performed CPR in the back of the ambulance, but it was too late.”
“They did everything they could, but were not able to revive the young man,” he said.

While there is no autopsy report to answer exactly what happened to Alexander during his swim, Anderson speculated that his death was caused by Shallow Water Blackout.

“Shallow Water Blackout is the sudden loss of consciousness caused by oxygen starvation following a breath holding dive,” according to www.scuba-doc.com. “Once you lose consciousness you are likely to drown. The blackout occurs quickly, insidiously and without warning.”

 Anderson ruled out any drug or alcohol use in causing the drowning.

Alexander and his brother, originally from New Bern, North Carolina, had lived on St. John about a year. Alexander worked at Rhumb Lines and Morgan’s Mango.

Alexander — the son of  Nancy Alexander, director of the MERCI Clinic in New Bern, and Dr. George Alexander, a heart surgeon —  was an Eagle Scout, North Carolina Scholar, athlete and an honor student, according to a report on the New Bern Sun Journal website.