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My husband died snorkeling in Hawaii – he would still be alive today if he had been warned about this little known but deadly danger


A Michigan woman has filed a lawsuit against several Hawaii authorities after her 38-year-old husband died while snorkeling.

Patti Johnson is suing the Fairmont Kea Lani Resort, the Hawaiian Tourism Authority and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau after her husband Ray Johnson’s February death was ruled a «drowning» in the autopsy report.

She believes that Ray’s death, which occurred before hers, was in no sense a «traditional» drowning and was actually caused by ROPE – rapid onset pulmonary edema – which may have been exacerbated by their recent flight.

«There’s hardly a minute in my life that goes by that I don’t think about him,» she told ABC News.

Dr. Meilan Han, chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Michigan, explained, “Long-haul flights do take a toll on your lungs.

Patti Johnson is suing the Fairmont Kea Lani Resort, the Hawaiian Tourism Authority and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau after her husband Ray Johnson’s February death was ruled a «drowning» in the autopsy report.

“Soon they started yelling, call 911!  That's when I ran to the beach.  And I ran -- I got to the beach.  They were pulling him out.  His head snapped back and I believe he was gone at that point,” Patti recalled.

“Soon they started yelling, call 911! That’s when I ran to the beach. And I ran – I got to the beach. They were pulling him out. His head snapped back and I believe he was gone at that point,” Patti recalled.

«After three days you’re back to normal, but if you snorkel after that long flight, there’s a significantly increased risk of death.»

In her lawsuit, Patti alleges that all three defendants failed to educate the public about the potential dangers of ROPE.

“I don’t want other people to go through what we went through, to lose a family member, to — to lose your husband that way.

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“It’s heartbreaking and avoidable and just, you know, just to be aware of it. Let people know,” she told the paper.

Patti said that minutes before his death, Ray was snorkeling with friends around Wailea Beach, which fronts the resort, when she stopped and realized something was wrong.

After a few seconds, she noticed that Ray was being helped by other snorkelers as he struggled to keep his head above water and headed for shore.

“Soon they started yelling, call 911! That’s when I ran to the beach. And I ran – I got to the beach. They were pulling him out. His head snapped back and I believe he was gone at that point,” Patti recalled.

Ray was snorkeling with friends around Wailea Beach (pictured) when the incident occurred.

Ray was snorkeling with friends around Wailea Beach (pictured) when the incident occurred.

Patti believes her husband suffered from ROPE - rapid onset pulmonary edema which caused his death

Patti believes her husband suffered from ROPE – rapid onset pulmonary edema which caused his death

The coroner later rules Ray’s death as a drowning, but Patti refuses to believe it.

“I watched him come in, how could he be drowning? According to her friends who snorkeled with him, Ray talked and also dived underwater.

“At one point he came over and said, ‘You’ve got to help me, I’m having trouble breathing,’ and that’s when he decided to head back to shore. I don’t think you’re going to have a conversation when people are drowning on parole,” she said.

Instead, Patti believes her husband suffered from LANA.

The couple stayed at the Fairmont Kea Lani in February.  The resort has not yet commented on the lawsuit

The couple stayed at the Fairmont Kea Lani in February. The resort has not yet commented on the lawsuit

Patti claims in her lawsuit that all three defendants failed to educate the public about the potential dangers of ROPE.

Patti claims in her lawsuit that all three defendants failed to educate the public about the potential dangers of ROPE.

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According to Yale Medicine, ROPE is a condition where fluid builds up in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

Fluid buildup is usually caused by a pressure imbalance in the heart, but other causes can also send excess fluid into the lungs.

Symptoms include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, shallow breathing.

Jay Stuemke, the family’s attorney, confirmed that Ray was an experienced snorkeler and believes the couple’s long flight contributed to his death.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and Fairmont Kea Lani have not yet commented on the lawsuit.



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