Palawan tourist death due to sea urchin, not stonefish, says partner

/ 05:56 PM August 25, 2015
Screengrab from Travis Millard's Facebook page

Screengrab from Travis Millard’s Facebook page

Dismissing previous reports circulating online, the boyfriend of a 25-year-old Filipino tourist who died in Coron, Palawan earlier this month said the victim supposedly stepped on a sea urchin and not a stonefish.

Saying that he has been “very bothered” by different versions of the death of his partner Miguel Gabriel Ruiz, Travis Navarro Millard on Sunday took to Facebook to post a photo of the latter’s foot when he was observed at Coron District Hospital on August 14.


“They dismissed the puncture wounds and didn’t offer me any type of explanation. After a thorough search and discussion with several marine and medical professionals, it is our best conclusion that he stepped on a sea urchin, not a stone fish,” Millard said.

“We are still awaiting the official autopsy results for the detailed toxicology report, however it is important for me to clear the air about the stone fish and other suggested cause of death,” he added, attaching a link of an article on sea urchin poisoning.


Millard said Ruiz, who was declared dead-on-arrival at the hospital, died a few minutes after stepping on something underwater and complaining of troubled breathing when they were snorkeling at Siete Pecados in Palawan.


‘Taxi of his death’

Since the accident took place, Millard and Ruiz’s family and friends have been openly criticizing tour guides in Siete Pecados for their supposed lack of knowledge and preparedness in first-aid and emergency response.

“In my experience, ambulance with paramedics, when you get the victim to the vehicle, they should immediately administer aid, but at this point, it was like a taxi of his death, because they just put him on the back, and they didn’t do anything. They just began to drive,” Millard said.

Reacting to a statement of Coron Mayor Clara Reyes that the victim was properly assisted according to protocols, Millard said he was the one who administered first-aid to to Ruiz as the tour guides only watched him.

“No attempt to resuscitate him with use of a defibrillator,” he said. “I think the hardest part of the loss is the fact that it could have been easily prevented.”


Echoing Millard, Ruiz’s sister Lea Marie slammed the tour guides and Coron’s tourism authorities for lack of necessary training and facilities.

“Buhay pa sana kapatid ko kung may first aid ang Coron, kung may EpiPen sa bangka, at may kaalaman ang mga boatmen sa first aid. Kung sana may defibrillator kayo sa mga ospital n’yo jan, or kahit sana oxygen nalang sa ambulance niyo. Or kahit sana maayos ang ambulance n’yo at may pakialam ang doctors n’yo at hindi pinagkamalan na nag-drugs kaya nag froth ang mouth niya,” Lea Marie said.

(My brother would still be alive if there was first aid in Coron, if they had an EpiPen on the boat, and if the boatmen knew how to administer first aid. If only they had a defibrillator in their hospital, or even just an oxygen tank in their ambulance. Or maybe even a functioning ambulance and concerned doctors that didn’t jump to conclusions about him using drugs just because he was frothing at the mouth.)

Ruiz’s friend Chris Chug also said boatmen fell short of warning the two on underwater dangers, aside from poisonous jellyfish.

“Boatmen and people of Coron didn’t know how to do CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and to revive patients who are in huge trouble. It was Travis, the boyfriend, who did the CPR procedures amid the vomit and all that. The boatmen didn’t inform and warn them of the poisonous corals or whatever deadly piranha or stone fish. The BF said, the boatmen only warned them of poisonous jelly fish that you’ll die within minutes after it stings/bites you,” Chug said.

‘Slap in our faces’

In an official statement dated August 20, Coron’s office of the Sangguniang Bayan said the municipal government “constantly strives to provide a high standard of service in its tourism industry by providing its tourism frontliners with a series of training.”

“We require that safety briefings be conducted by tour operators, guides and marine park management to ensure that our visitors are aware of the natural dangers present in a marine environment,” said councilor John Patrick Matta.

“The presence of signboards stating , ‘NO STEPPING ON THE CORALS’ and ‘NO TOUCHING OF SEA CREATURES’ provides fair warning to all visitors to avoid danger and harm that they may inflict on themselves and on the marine creatures as well,” Matta added.

But Millard refuted Matta’s claims, saying that no such signs exist.

“No safety briefings. My tour guides didn’t even know CPR. This is a slap in our faces,” he added.

Reports said Ruiz’s family was planning to file a case against Coron’s tourism authorities if the autopsy result will prove that the victim died of poisoning and not of drowning, contrary to initial report by local police. JE

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TAGS: corals, Coron, death, marine, Miguel Ruiz, Palawan, sea urchin, snorkeling, stonefish, Tourism, Travis Millard
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