R.I. Man Appeals Wrongful Death Verdict in Wife’s Scuba Diving Accident

October 27, 2006

A former Jamestown, R.I. town councilor found liable in his wife’s scuba diving death has appealed the jury’s verdict and is asking the state Supreme Court for a new trial.

A jury deliberated for less than three hours last February before finding David Swain responsible for the death of his wife, Shelley Tyre, who drowned in 1999 while the couple was vacationing together in the British Virgin Islands.

Tyre’s parents filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Swain, a scuba shop owner who has filed for bankruptcy. The jury’s award has risen with interest to more than $6 million.

Swain has never been criminally charged for Tyre’s death and has denied any responsibility, calling it a “tragic accident.” He acted as his own lawyer during the trial, though he was absent for much of it.

In his request for a new trial, Swain said Superior Court Judge Patricia Hurst denied him his right to an attorney by refusing to delay the start of his trial after one of his lawyers became sick with cancer.

Hurst denied an earlier request for a new trial from Swain, saying she had warned him repeatedly before trial to find another attorney.

The attorney for Tyre’s parents, J. Renn Olenn, argued that Swain was pursuing another woman at the time of his wife’s death and killed her for money as the two were scuba diving off the Caribbean island of Tortola. Olenn argued that Swain held Shelley Tyre down in the water until she drowned after attacking her from behind and cutting off her air supply.

Police on Tortola there initially ruled the death accidental, but are now investigating it.

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