Jeremy, Colonel Astor hardly "Chose" to die. It was just the luck (Bad!) of the draw. Earlier, he had attempted to gain permission to accompany his wife when she was put in the lifeboat, but was turned down. He didn't press the matter any further.
Possibly, Donald. Even absent the break-up, anything not nailed down would have gotten underway on the downhill slope once the stern tipped up. Toss in flying debris from the break-up...flying people who couldn't hold on....there are all kinds of ways to get dead in a shipwreck.
Where did I say that Colonel Astor managed to hold onto anything? I made a general statement that there are all kinds of ways to get dead in a shipwreck, and there are. Titanic was no different. Most (But not all) anyone who ended up swimming invariably ended up either drowning or freezing to death. I wouldn't bet on the man being crushed by anything as there is no evidence post mortem that he was. In all the confusion, a swollen jaw would be fairly easy to come by. My bet: something hit the man or he had an unpleasant encounter with some of the wreckage. Entirely plausible, and at least it avoids the pitfall of overthinking this question.
Jeremy has said: "My bet: something hit the man or he had an unpleasant encounter with some of the wreckage." I must agree. And would add - being upright in the water - only upon his head. As his son, Vincent, who - like helpful strangers first had - identified his father from his effects, I find it most likely that 'Jack' - an excellent swimmer - was one among a number of those struggling in the water whose death - or whose disfigurement - was due to the forward-falling funnel.
When Astor's body was recovered from the water, according to Ross it showed signs of only minor damage to the head, and after it had been prepared for formal identification in Halifax the face was described as discoloured but otherwise showing no signs of damage. Now, you can't be slightly damaged by a falling funnel. Either it misses you or it renders you beyond hope of restoration by even the most skilled of Halifax undertakers. I believe that evidence of minor damage to the head could have been minimised by expert attention in Halifax, but if Astor had been under the funnel when it came down, then all the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put John Jacob together again.
Having first assumed - for argument's sake - an 'Astor-and-the-falling-funnel-may-be-more-than-a-myth' position, viewing that theoretical possibliity in the black-and-buff of Bob's counter-argument tempts me to concede defeat. Tempts me. And also amuses me. I hope Bob does not believe that my own head was swollen!