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A celebrated athlete mysteriously died in the Virgin Islands. Here’s everything we know about Jamie Cail’s sudden death

Top high school and university athlete found unresponsive by boyfriend at shared residence in US Virgin Islands on 21 February, Gustaf Kilander and Joe Sommerlad report

Monday 06 March 2023 13:25 GMT
Jamie Cail in action during the Phillips 66 National Championships at the Clovis Swim Complex in California on 13 August 1998
Jamie Cail in action during the Phillips 66 National Championships at the Clovis Swim Complex in California on 13 August 1998 (Getty)

One of the top high school swimmers of the 1990s has been found dead in the US Virgin Islands. Jamie Cail was only 42 years old and the cause of death remains a mystery.

The body of the retired swimming champion was discovered in the home she shared with her boyfriend in St John on 21 February, local police say.

Ms Cail, originally from Claremont, New Hampshire, was part of a relay team that won a gold medal at the 1997 Pan Pacific Championships before she enrolled at the University of Maine and competed as part of its swim team in the 2000/01 academic year, according to ABC News.

She’s being remembered as “one of the best high school swimmers in the country in the 1990s”.

This is everything we know about Jamie Cail.

Case under investigation

Local police said in their statement announcing her death that the case is under review by the Criminal Investigation Bureau but has offered few other details.

Mr Cail’s boyfriend, named by media reports as Kamal Thomas, 34, returned from a bar at around 12.08am on Tuesday “to check on his girlfriend,” finding his partner lying unresponsive on the floor, the police statement said.

15 Jul 1999: Jamie Cail swims in the Womens 200 Butterfly during the Janet Evan Invitational at the USC Pool in Los Angeles, California. (Getty)

A friend helped him to get her into a car and she was taken to the nearby Myrah Keating-Smith Clinic.

She was declared dead on arrival at the scene, after CPR attempts and a call to 911. The boyfriend identified her after her death was declared. Police were notified of her death at around 2.39am, authorities said.

Investigators with the US Virgin Islands Police Department subsequently said they are “anxiously awaiting” an autopsy and toxicology result from the case.

Glen Dratte, director of communications for the department, told CNN that it was “crucial” to be accurate.

He told the news network that all deaths were looked into by the Criminal Investigations Bureau but added that there was “a lot of moving parts” in this particular probe.

Jamie Cail of the United States performs during the Pan Pacific Swim Championships in Fukuoka City, Japan. Mandatory (Getty)

Loved ones remember Cail

“She was just a very beautiful person,” a friend told ABC affiliate WMUR out of Manchester, New Hampshire. “She had a huge heart. She was really loving and kind and well-loved and popular on the island and everybody knows her.”

“Everyone from the, you know, older generational, local families to the younger people, everybody loved her,” the friend said, adding that Ms Cail had been working at a coffee shop on the island.

Offering further background on Ms Cail’s career as a swimmer, Swim Swam states that, in addition to her 1997 Pan Pacific relay gold, Ms Cail also took a silver medal at the 1998/99 FINA Swimming World Cup in Brazil in the 800 freestyle as part of the US Swimming National B Team.

Jamie Cail, 42, was a rising swimming star who later moved to the US Virgin Islands (Family handout )

She also swam for the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, where she remains a team record holder in a number of disciplines within the 15-16 age group, before moving to Huntington Beach, California, to train with the Golden West Swim Club, where she won two state championships races before relocating again to Maine for university.

Jamie Cail was found unresponsive in her house in the US Virgin Islands (Screengrab/WMUR-TV)

Jessica DeVries wrote on Facebook that Ms Cail was her cousin.

“We are all devastated as a family. Pat and Gary, Jamie’s parents are living in Maine,” she wrote.

“They are absolutely shook to the core. We are all mourning together and are unbelievably grateful and blessed by the outpouring of love and uplifting experiences you are sharing with us,” she added.

Jooyoung Lee shared his memories of his former teammate on Twitter.

“Very sad to hear that my [high school] friend and teammate, Jamie Cail... has passed away,” he tweeted.

“Jamie had an unmatched work ethic. She left everything in each practice and became a world-class distance swimmer through grit. Rest in peace to a real one,” he added.

“I remember we used to do dry land training to supplement swimming. One set was 10 x 1 minute rapid jumps while holding weights over one’s head. Most of us would hold 10 pound weights. Jamie would hoist a 45 pound plate above her head and push through pain. She was a real one,” he said.

He added that “my friend, Ashley Ellis (on the far left) shared with me on Facebook that I took this photo after they broke the national high school record in the women’s 4 x 100 Freestyle relay. Just feeling all kinds of sad today, realizing how life takes us all in different directions”.

Radio silence

With the local police declining to make further comment for the time being, the information void was swiftly filled – unhelpfully and baselessly – by online speculation about the possible cause of Cail’s death.

One YouTube video in particular from a media outlet called the Black and White Sports Network was shared among anti-vaxxer Twitter accounts in which the host simply reads out a Breitbart report about the tragedy and insists it is “not normal” for a 42-year-old athlete to pass away so suddenly.

He freely admits that he does not know any more about the case than anyone else but insinuates that an adverse reaction to a Covid-19 vaccine could be to blame.

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