The only official report available to the public, the Marine Mammal Inventory Reports, lists Splash's death as due to "acute perforating gastric ulceration with associated peritonitis." According to Rose, that means: "Splash had ulcers (that's what ‘acute perforating gastric ulceration' means – his stomach was riddled with ulcers that had significantly damaged the stomach lining and finally poked holes in it)."
She said she could only speculate on the role the sand could have played. "If he had a lot of sand in his stomach and his stomach was ulcerated, it would not have been helpful. I cannot say if the sand could have caused the ulceration, but if it didn't, he probably would have exacerbated the condition by eating it."
What about Splash's epilepsy? "Did Splash's condition contribute to his death? Probably," Rose said. "But again -- that's just a guess, because I do not have enough data to draw solid conclusions about it." She added that, there's a "good chance" he wouldn't have been epileptic if he'd been born in the wild -- David Kirby's book, "Death At SeaWorld," reports that Splash was born premature in captivity, developing his epilepsy later. "But I have seen and heard about whales in the wild that were a bit ‘odd' – possibly having fits, etcetera -- and they are cared for within the pod. A27, one of my study animals, lived to be 30, which is the mean life expectancy for males in the wild. I'm not saying he was epileptic, but he had these weird tail-slapping fits and his growth seemed stunted."