Belfast Telegraph

Pensioner drank heavily before fall

A pensioner who drowned in Bangor after falling into a marina had been drinking heavily, an inquest heard.

Keen sailor Alex McConnell, 70, was seen staggering close to the harbour before he disappeared into the bitterly cold water in September 2010. He had been planning to spend the night on a moored boat.

The retired gas meter reader from Seahill Road near the town was discovered close to the shoreline by a walker the next morning and is believed to have fallen from the mooring.

Pathologist Dr James Lyness told the Belfast hearing: "It is a high level of alcohol...and most individuals would be considerably intoxicated.

"There is evidence (from Constable Una Stevenson) that this gentleman was stumbling as he was walking. There would have been a decrease in his co-ordination, his balance and in his reflexes." He drowned within 15 minutes.

His son Brian McConnell had taken a call from his father explaining that he had been drinking in local bars and was planning to spend the night on a boat owned by his son or another belonging to his friend which was more comfortable.

He was last seen by a member of marina staff entering the floating pontoon where the boats are berthed and walking towards them. Mr McConnell said his widowed father terribly missed holidaying with his mother and had not been away since her death in 2008.

"We had booked a holiday for next year. We chartered two yachts, he was going to skipper one and I was going to skipper the other," he said.

He had no concerns when his father called him to say he was staying on a boat.

"His capacity for alcohol was quite high and generally you would not see him drunk. He sounded completely compos mentis on the phone and I had no reservations about him going to the boat at all," he said.

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