University administrator drowns after river accident
A canoeist who drowned on a dangerous weir on the River Bann had guided members of his group over the same spot moments before his own kayak overturned.
University administrator Stephen Chapman was leading a group from the Causeway Coast Kayak Association, which included his own son, when his canoe capsized on the river near Coleraine yesterday afternoon.
Sean McCarry, regional commander of Bann Rescue Services, said Mr Chapman knew the river well.
“The man was part of a very experienced group who knew the river and were always well equipped and well trained,” he said.
“The accident happened just before 2pm on Carnroe River where four of the people involved had already passed the weir under the guidance of their leader, whose canoe then overturned.”
Mr McCarry said the canoeists expected Mr Chapman to resurface but realised something was wrong as the seconds ticked by.
They tried to rescue him and alerted emergency services. He said farmers from the area and police crews all joined the rescue.
“I couldn’t praise highly enough the cooperation between police and other rescue services and the way it was carried out,” he said.
“I would also pass on my sincere condolences to the family of Mr Chapman.
“These are very professional people on the river who would be well kitted out. The unfortunate thing is that there was a very high flood and a lot of water going over the weir at the minute.”
Mr Chapman was head of administration at the faculty of life and health sciences of the University of Ulster in Coleraine.
SDLP assembly member John Dallat expressed his shock at the tragedy.
He said: “It is my understanding the canoeist got into difficulties at Carnroe about five miles upstream from Coleraine on the River Bann and has tragically lost his life.
“It is fair to say that this part of the Bann has been swollen in recent weeks as a result of heavy rain and despite being a scenic location famous for salmon fishing, would contain strong undercurrents that are perhaps not that obvious.”
He added: “The River Bann has claimed many lives in recent years. I would warn those using the waterway to take the utmost care.”
Sinn Fein assembly member Billy Leonard said he was shocked by the tragedy and said it affected the community and those who took part in water sports on the Bann, as well as the deceased’s family.