CONTENT WARNING: The following report contains graphic details that some readers may find disturbing.
Two weeks ago, a heartbreaking incident unfolded as recent Louisiana graduate Cameron Robbins vanished while swimming in the waters of the Bahamas at night. A grainy cellphone video captured the moment when Robbins disappeared from sight as the camera briefly panned away.
Speculation arose that the video might depict a shark approaching the 18-year-old, but experts in scuba diving and marine search and rescue caution that alternative scenarios should be considered. These experts explain that there are various possibilities that could explain the absence of Robbins’ body, shedding light on why it remains undiscovered even after two weeks.
Initially, the coast guard and Robbins’ family conducted extensive search efforts for two days in the vicinity of Nassau. Regrettably, no signs of the young athlete were found, leading to the suspension of the search.
As Wednesday marks the two-week milestone since Robbins’ disappearance, his family continues to grapple with profound grief and unanswered questions. The search for answers and closure remains ongoing.
“He was lost at sea after being reported missing off the coast of Athol Island in the Bahamas on the evening of May 24,” states a recent obituary honoring the beloved brother, son and grandson.
“Though he left this world far too soon, he lived a life full of good friends and family He was funny and kind-hearted, but also intense and driven.”
Could the disappearance be attributed to a shark attack?
Just three days after graduating from the University Lab School in Baton Rouge, Cameron Robbins disappeared in what is often referred to as the “shark-infested” waters near Athol Island in the Bahamas.
The chilling sequence of events unfolded after Robbins had jumped from the Blackbeard’s Revenge, a pirate ship-style vessel, moments prior to his vanishing.
The haunting footage captured Robbins swimming away from a rescue buoy while bystanders desperately urged him to grab onto it. As the camera pans, a shadowy figure can be seen lurking in the water just a few feet away from him.
Speculation among online viewers quickly arose, suggesting that the unidentified object might have been a shark responsible for pulling him under. However, experts in the field have largely dismissed this claim, presenting alternative explanations for Robbins’ disappearance.
“We’ve consulted with oceanography and fisheries experts,” said Brian Trascher, vice president and spokesperson for the United Cajun Navy, a non-profit that has worked with the Robbins family. “They don’t believe … that he came in contact with any time of shark or predatory marine life.
“And until we get better video or something more conclusive, that’s going to be our position.”
With years of experience and expertise in Caribbean waters, including those off the coast of the Bahamas, Butch Hendrick, the president and founder of Lifeguard Systems, a public safety dive training company, has dedicated decades to familiarizing himself with the region.
“I don’t hear about a lot of shark attacks in the Bahamas,” he told The Post Friday.
Hendrick pointed out that vessels like the one Cameron Robbins and his classmates were on often discard or accidentally spill food into the water, which can attract marine life, including sharks.
“Marine creatures, like sharks, are intelligent enough to recognize that it’s a boat that regularly produces food,” explained Hendrick, who has devised rescue techniques in 15 countries.
However, the behavior exhibited by the object seen in the water with Robbins did not align with typical shark behavior, according to Hendrick.
“The tendency is not that [the shark] came in, took him, and took him to the depth,” Hendricks went on.
He noted the lack of any sign of blood in the water.
“They would hit him, that could be enough to totally incapacitate [him]. That could be enough to cause him to drown right there.”
Further, it’s unusual for a shark to actually finish eating a human it attacked, he noted.
“The tendency more often is to take a bite, shake and decide this isn’t what they wanted,” he said.
As for tiger sharks, which are known to swim in the waters off the Athol Island, “they can take a very large chunk,” Hendricks said.
“But the concept that they came back and ate more is slim.”
What occurred to Cameron Robbins?
While not directly involved in the case, Cristina Zenato, an experienced diver and advocate for shark and ocean conservation in the Bahamas, shared her perspective. She suggested that Cameron Robbins may have experienced hypothermia, followed by drowning.
“From what I saw, Cameron was wearing just shorts, and might have had a certain level of alcohol in his blood, which causes vasodilation,” she wrote in an email. “Chances are he didn’t survive hypothermia which contrary to popular belief can happen in matter of an hour or so, even in Caribbean waters.”
Butch Hendricks, like Cristina Zenato, also raised questions about the potential influence of alcohol on Robbins’ state at the time. He considered the possibility that alcohol consumption could have played a role in the circumstances.
Additionally, as the president and founder of a well-established rescue and recovery training company, he contemplated whether Robbins might have experienced breath loss upon jumping from the boat.
“When he hits the water, does it simply knock the wind out of him and he can’t catch his breath?” he said.
“Knocking the wind out of himself when he hits the water is a very high possibility – now he’s struggling and he could sink.”
The current at the time would have likely also played a role, Hendricks said, as well as the possibility that Robbins could have hit his head during his descent.
“So, we don’t see the thrashing, we don’t see [blood]. A better chance that he just, he hits his head on the side of the boat or he gets the wind knocked out of him when he hits the water, he can’t catch his breath and then, in 60 seconds he’s leaving the surface.”
He called the chances Robbins could have swum to the safety of a shore “not impossible, but reasonably slim.”
Is Cameron Robbins gone forever?
After an extensive two-day search in the waters, conducted by the US Coast Guard and the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF), the efforts were suspended following the standard protocol when no signs of Robbins could be found at sea.
Hendricks, who is well-versed in search and rescue operations, suggested that officials most likely meticulously scanned the water’s surface for any visible evidence.
In the event that Robbins’ body sank after his leap from the boat, it is expected that his remains would have floated unless he sustained any injuries or punctures during his time in the water.
“This happened well over a week and a half ago,” Hendricks said. “In that water temperature, he should have floated.”
In addition to the temperature and any injuries to the body, the water’s depth would also play a role in whether Robbins’ body resurfaced, Hendricks explained.
“It could very well mean the body is gone forever,” he said.
“It’s been too long for that temperature and for that depth, unless the water is very deep there – unless we’re talking water that’s greater than 100 feet,” he went on. “That body should have been up – unless it can’t float.”
Hendricks also drew attention to the presence of a 200-foot underwater channel in the vicinity of Robbins’ entry point into the water.
According to Hendricks, if Robbins happened to drift into that channel, the chances of resurfacing are slim, stating, “he’s not coming up.”