Pool death caused by rare heart attack, coroner finds

MISSED: Motuiliu Groom.
MISSED: Motuiliu Groom.

A coroner has found a Wellington mother’s sudden death at a swimming pool was attributable to a rare form of heart attack - and rescuers did all they could to save her.

Motuiliu Groom, 49, of Lyall Bay - known as "Motu" - died on December 5 last year while aqua-jogging early in the morning at the Kilbirnie swimming pool. 

Lifeguards, emergency services and two other pool-users tried to revive her without success but Coroner Carla na Nagara found that they put in their best efforts.

Around 6.30am that morning a lifeguard monitoring the pool watched Groom aqua jogging. She looked away for only about 10 seconds — and spotted her suddenly motionless on her back with her face underwater.

She walked to get a closer look and recognised that Groom was in trouble. With the assistance of two pool-goers dragged her out of the water. The pair happened to be a registered nurse and a firefighter with significant water safety experience, the coroner’s inquiry heard.

Lifeguards and the nurse used the pool’s defibrillator and attempted resuscitation until Wellington Free Ambulance paramedics arrived and took over. 

The police, WorkSafe and the Wellington City Council, which runs the pool, all submitted evidence to the coroner’s inquiry. They found that the lifeguards acted appropriately and the ambulance service’s management wrote a letter praising their ‘‘excellent performance.’’ 

Coroner na Nagara also commended the bystanders who came to Groom’s aid.

However their efforts could not save Groom, who was pronounced dead at the pool.

A post-mortem found that her weight and other health issues was managed and the mother of three avoided alcohol and smoking. Her cardiovascular risk had been calculated as low the previous year.

The coroner found Groom died from drowning associated with spontaneous coronary artery dissection.

According to the United States’ National Institute of Health the condition is a rare cause of heart attacks in young and otherwise healthy people. It strikes women at a higher rate than men.

After her death, Groom’s family members told the Dominion Post the keen sports fan had begun aqua jogging in the last few years in a bid to get fit.

The Dominion Post