Belfast Telegraph

Agony at Newry body-boarder's death at Portrush

Friends tell coroner's court of desperate bid to save man who couldn't swim

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

A man who drowned while body-boarding off the north coast could not swim, a coroner's court has heard.

Stephen Pentony from Ardgreen Drive in Newry died after getting into difficulties at the West Strand in Portrush last May.

An inquest for the 25-year-old Northern Ireland Water engineer heard how friends had tried to save him but were beaten back by the strong current and swell.

"He looked scared and tired," his friend Rachel Herron said in a statement read to the court.

Ms Herron, who was not a strong swimmer, said she had seen Mr Pentony gripping his body board and looking exhausted about 30 metres from the shore.

She managed to attract attention from other family members on the shore who raised the alarm and swam towards him but was pushed back when a large wave crashed, dragging them underwater.

"The large wave separated us so we were either side of the wave," she said, choking back tears.

"I just... and I had to make a call."

She said she felt physically sick when she eventually reached the shore.

"I could tell swimming against it (the current) was really difficult but I did not notice it carrying me at the time," Ms Herron added. "I've some badges from school but I would not be a strong swimmer."

The court heard how, despite being unable to swim, Mr Pentony had been body-boarding about half-a-dozen times previously. His girlfriend Caroline Herron said the sea was not too rough when they first entered the water. Ms Herron said: "It seemed to be reasonably calm when we first went in. There seemed to be a lot more waves after."

The inquest heard that an inshore lifeboat crew recovered Mr Pentony from the water 50 to 75 metres from the shore, face-down and unresponsive.

He was not wearing a bouyancy aid and he had been separated from his board which was later washed up on the shore.

Despite extensive resuscitation efforts Mr Pentony never recovered.

In her findings, Coroner Suzanne Anderson said: "Death was due to drowning. I would also like to extend my very deepest sympathies to the Pentony family and also to Caroline and the Herron family."

After the hearing, the dead man's brother Jamie said: "We heard today that it was a tragic accident. I hope other people learn from it."

Belfast Telegraph

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