Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

'Heart attack link' to marina death

A pensioner drowned after he fell into Bangor marina in 2010, an inquest has been told

A drunken pensioner who fell into Bangor marina and drowned may have suffered a heart attack, a coroner has said.

Sailor Alex McConnell, 70, had been planning to spend the night on a moored boat after a drinking session which left him three times over the drink-drive limit in September 2010.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson said there was insufficient evidence to establish how he collapsed but added alcohol or cardiac arrest may have caused him to lose balance. She said: "Pre-existing heart disease meant his sudden death from heart attack could have occurred at any time."

Mr McConnell had been drinking in local bars and called his son Brian McConnell to say he would spend the night on a boat in the marina, either his son's or a friend's.

He was seen by a berth master at the marina entering the complex after midnight. Police who investigated the death subsequently observed him stagger slightly as he made his way on to the pontoon walkway which provides access to the moorings, but that was not noted by the staff member who had no concerns about his welfare. That was the last time he was seen until his body was found by a walker floating in the water a short distance from the coastline early that morning.

Relatives of the retired gas meter reader from Seahill Road, Craigavad, raised concern about the number of fixed safety ladders to help people climb from the water on to wooden walkways where the boats are moored.

After the Belfast inquest, his son Brian said: "This was our opportunity to raise our concerns with regards to safety ladders and provision of them within the marina. Hopefully with these concerns we have raised it will be acted on further and perhaps it may not happen again."

There was one fixed ladder close to the centre of the wooden walkway, the coroner said. An inspector from the Health and Safety Executive, John Wright, said the proportion of ladders to berths in the marina was broadly in line with guidance. Following a Health and Safety Executive inspection after the death nine additional fixed ladders were installed, the inquest heard.

Ms Anderson said Mr McConnell was unable to pull himself from the water using a fixed safety ladder and added this may be due to alcohol he had consumed or having suffered a heart attack. He may have experienced shock from the cold water or entered the water some distance from the ladder and been unable to reach it.

"There is insufficient evidence to establish which, if any, of these scenarios is correct or most likely," she added.

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