Belfast Telegraph

Watersports fan drowned after his dinghy capsized

Two children watched in horror as their father desperately tried to save a drowning man, an inquest has heard.

The boy and girl were left paddling in the water after the group's dinghy capsized and they were all thrown into Strangford Lough.

David Allen dragged his friend to safety, performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while still overboard.

Watersports enthusiast Ken Dorman (51) was shocked by the icy water and swallowed some, causing him to drown, Belfast C oroner John Leckey ruled.

Mr Allen, 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 floating on his back and not trying to swim towards the boat.

He stopped breathing several times and was frothing at the mouth with his eyes rolling. The children asked their father what was wrong as he struggled to right the boat and cling to Mr Dorman.

The tragedy happened around 500 yards from Newtownards Sailing Club on June 12 last year.

The group was on a pleasure trip ahead of the club's regatta. It was a warm day, accentuating the contrast with the cold water.

Mr Allen said his friend was a large, 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, I knew right away something was wrong," he said.

He added: "He did not make any attempt to move at all and that is what I struggle with. I think there was something stopping him from doing anything."

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.

Mr Dorman's wife Janice paid tribute to her husband. She said he was humble, easy-going and had a great sense of humour.

"The loss of Ken has devastated all of us. It has been hard to come to terms with it and I still don't think I have accepted it fully," she said.

"We planned for the future and were very close. He was irreplaceable and will be missed by us all."

Mr Dorman completed a dinghy course in 2006, and was experienced in capsizing and righting a boat.

His buoyancy aid was working properly but the cord had not been pulled to inflate it, coastguards discovered afterwards.

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

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