Belfast Telegraph

Man saw friend drown, inquest told

Two children watched in horror as their father desperately tried to save a drowning man during a boat trip, an inquest has been told.

The boy and girl were left paddling in the water after the group's dinghy capsized and they were all thrown into Strangford Lough, 500 yards offshore near Newtownards Sailing Club, on June 12 last year.

David Allen dragged his friend Ken Dorman to safety, performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while still overboard, but 51-year-old was shocked by the icy water and swallowed some, causing him to drown, the Belfast coroner ruled.

Mr Allen, a technology teacher who almost broke down while giving evidence, swam to rescue his long-time friend after he heard him say he was struggling. The victim complained that he was unable to inflate his buoyancy aid but by the time Mr Allen reached him he was lying spread-eagled floating on his back and not trying to swim towards the boat.

Mr Allen said his friend was a large and strong man and a good swimmer. He went bodyboarding and was comfortable in the water.

"I was shocked when I saw him lying spread-eagled face up, doing nothing, and I knew right away that there was something wrong," he said.

Coroner John Leckey said: "The children were a distraction, they were distressed whenever it became apparent that Mr Dorman was in trouble, that added to their distress and yours."

Assistant state pathologist Dr Peter Ingram could not discover any contributory cause to the drowning, although he noted some heart disease. The coroner was unable to rule that the victim had suffered a heart attack during the incident.

The coroner ruled that he died from drowning, suffering shock following the capsize and ingestion of salt water.

Mr Dorman's wife Janice paid tribute to her husband, a self-employed lead work rubber bond specialist. She said he was humble, patient and easy-going, with a great sense of humour.

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