University of Cambridge graduate Dominic Hamlyn died after underwater swimming challenge, inquest hears
By Marijke Hall
A 24-year-old University of Cambridge graduate died after taking part in an underwater swimming challenge with friends, an inquest heard.
Dominic Hamlyn suddenly stopped moving in the pool at his family home in Crundale, near Canterbury, in the early hours of July 28.
It is thought he may have had an underlying heart condition.
Dominic’s mother “screamed and screamed” after being told doctors were unable to save her son.
A strong swimmer, he had challenged a friend to see how many lengths they could do underwater, the inquest in Maidstone heard today.
Dominic, who completed an MPhil at the Cambridge Judge Business School, was known to be able to manage five lengths beneath the surface - but stopped after just two.
Tomas Ter Reehorst, a friend of Dominic’s brother Benedict, had swum one-and-a-half lengths underwater before giving up and going over to his girlfriend at the side of the pool.
They had a joke but then seconds later looked over and saw Dominic was motionless in the water.
They pulled him out of the pool and started CPR immediately and an ambulance was called at 3.24am.
His father Peter Hamlyn, a famous neurosurgeon, described the moment his son’s “hysterical” friends came to find him.
“I thought, ‘calm, old dad will find nothing to worry about’,” he said. “He showed no signs of life when I got to him.”
He gave his son CPR while Benedict held his brother’s hand.
Paramedics arrived just seven minutes and found a weak pulse before taking him to the William Harvey Hospital, where he was treated throughout the day.
Dominic was not stable enough to be taken to King's College Hospital in London - so a team came down to Ashford.
But his condition never really improved and he suffered a brain haemorrhage at about 5.30pm.
Peter, a world-famous neurosurgeon, said: “I told Geraldine it was hopeless and she screamed and screamed and screamed.”
Dominic died at 7.24pm.
The former Kings School pupil, described by his father as a “superb athlete”, had been celebrating his younger brother Benedict's 21st birthday at the house.
The party, attended by about 40 guests, was a “well-behaved and polite” event at which Dominic made a speech.
The inquest heard he was about one-and-a-half times over the drink-drive limit, but the alcohol did not play a part in his death.
Before taking part in the underwater swimming challenge, both Dominic and Tomas did a breathing exercise to help them stay beneath the surface for longer.
His father Peter told the inquest: “He would take a series of deep breaths then go under. He’s done this since he was a child.”
Dr Olaf Biedrzycki said: “He wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. He’d done it since he was 11.
“On the balance of probability, there probably was an underlying cardiac problem.”
Dominic’s family believes he died as a result of sudden athlete death syndrome - and that tragedy could have struck at any time.
Concluding, assistant coroner Scott Matthewson said: “Dominic died after suffering a cardiac arrest from an undiagnosed disorder while swimming.”
Dominic’s death in July prompted many tributes from those who knew him.
A spokesman for Cambridge Judge Business School told the Cambridge Independent: “The entire Cambridge Judge Business School community is incredibly saddened by the news. We send our condolences to the family.”
Peter Roberts, headmaster of The King’s School, described him as a “talented and charming young man”.
Mr Roberts added: “He shone in the classroom, on the sports pitch and in every social context by the brightness of his mind and his charismatic personality.
“Our hearts and support go out to his parents, brothers and family.”
Dominic went on to study at UCL in London, from which he graduated with a first class degree in science and engineering in 2017.
The accomplished scholar then studied for his MPhil in business administration and management at the Cambridge Judge Business School, graduating in 2019.
Outside of his studies, he was a long-standing member of Selling Cavaliers Cricket Club.
Secretary Roger Wynde said: “Dom brought an energy and spirit to everything he did, including his cricket.
“He was such a talented sportsman and was hugely popular with everyone at our club and beyond.
“He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
“All our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very sad time.”
In 2014, he ran the London Marathon in aid of The Brain & Spine Foundation - for which he managed to raise almost £5,700.
On his fundraising page, he said he was inspired by the number of people in Crundale who have been affected by neurological and spinal conditions, as well as the death of his baby cousin, Maria.
He was also motivated after seeing his father and his patient Michael Watson, a former boxing champion, walk the route together.
Dominic wrote: “It took them six days and I swore when I was old enough I would run it; in the words of Michael, ‘for the benefit of others less fortunate than me’.”
Mr Watson, whose life was saved by Dominic’s father in 1991, said: “I loved him and knew him since he was a little boy.
“I was so touched that he was inspired to run the London Marathon because of me and help improve the lives of others’.”
In a statement released after Dominic’s death, Mr Hamlyn said: “Why did he die? He was a superb athlete competing in both rugby and rowing at Cambridge.
“We are broken. If Dominic is to be remembered it is as a hero and one of the world’s helpers.”