Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Man dies after falling from canoe

The man died despite being winched up by a search and rescue helicopter and flown to hospital

A man has died after falling out of a canoe as he navigated his way down a steep-sided river gorge in Cornwall, police said.

The 49-year-old canoeist, who was on holiday with his family, was pulled from the River Fowey at Golitha Falls on the southern edge of Bodmin Moor on Sunday afternoon.

Devon and Cornwall Police said he was winched up by a search and rescue helicopter and flown to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, where attempts to resuscitate him failed and he was pronounced dead.

A police spokesman said they received reports "a canoeist had fallen out of his canoe and was reportedly clinging to a rock" at Draynes, near Liskeard, at around 3.29pm. It is believed the man was canoeing alone and not as part of a group, the spokesman added.

Golitha Falls, a nature reserve on the edge of the moor, is "an area of woodland occupying a steep-sided valley gorge, with the River Fowey flowing through it in a series of spectacular cascades", according to Government agency Natural England.

Phil Harris, who runs the Badgers' Sett Holiday Cottages around half a mile from the Falls, said the area had experienced heavy rainfall over the last few days. "The water has certainly been going very fast and we have had a lot of rain," he said. "I wouldn't have thought it was high enough to canoe but over the last few days it has been very high and very fast flowing."

It is understood that the area is used by kayakers, although not commonly, and has been known for its white water.

David Wells, publicity officer for the Port of Plymouth Canoeing Association whose members take to the waters all over Devon and Cornwall, described the incident as "a terrible tragedy".

"To anyone on the outside it sounds dangerous, plunging down a rapid in the cold waters of winter but all canoeists and kayakers know that while there are obvious risks, it is much safer than it appears," he said. "The important thing to remember is that you have to train to reach the appropriate level of skill for the grade of water."

Mr Wells added that many experienced canoeists would have been out on Sunday. "The rivers are at their best for white water sport at this time of year," he said. "All canoeists and kayakers know the risks but it is no less upsetting and shocking when someone is hurt on the rare occasion something goes badly wrong."

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