British student drowned in Malta underwater tunnel despite swim warning

Updated: 

An inquest has ruled the death of a University of Cambridge student in Malta last year as "accidental".

Marcus Hughes-Hallett, 20, who studied maths at Queens' College, was on holiday with his family when he drowned on 23 August 2012 while attempting to swim through an underwater tunnel.

The family, which included parents David and Kristen, as well as brother Christian, had gone on a boat trip and had been swimming in the Santa Marija Bay, off the Maltese island of Comino.

The family were swimming near two caves in the bay, one "light" and one "dark". The two caves were connected by an underwater tunnel.

Captain Sebastian Custance had warned the family, from Leatherhead, Surrey, not to swim through the tunnel to reach the other cave, but to walk over the top.

He added he had tried it himself and had given himself "a scare".

According to the Cambridge News, the inquest at Woking Coroners' Court on Tuesday heard that the first time the family had moved from one cave to another, Marcus, a keen sportsman, had done so by swimming, despite his parents telling him not to.

However, on the return trip, he got into difficulty and failed to reappear in the cave.

The family, along with other tourists, searched for him and his body was pulled from the water 20 minutes later.

CPR was attempted at the scene, but he was pronounced dead after being flown to a hospital.

Assistant Surrey Coroner Michael Burgess recorded a verdict of accidental death.

According to the Daily Mail, he said: "It is possible, despite the warning given in the briefing by Sebastian Custance, that Marcus took this to be a challenge rather than a serious warning against swimming through."

Following the inquest, Marcus's parents said: "He was living a life of adventure both at university and in his travels and had plans for many more adventures.

"A decision to swim back through the caves has led him on a different path. Marcus was very much loved and is very much missed by his friends and family."

Related articles

British holidaymaker found dead on beach in Laos

British tourist drowns at Phuket beach