Belfast Telegraph

Coroner calls for compulsory lifejackets after two drowning inquests in two days

Patrick McGurgan spoke after an inquest into the death of Kenny Andrews, from Co Down.

Kenny Andrews died after coming off a jetski (Andrews family/PA)
Kenny Andrews died after coming off a jetski (Andrews family/PA)

By Rebecca Black, PA

A Northern Ireland coroner has called for a compulsory life jacket rule after hearing two inquests following drowning deaths, in two days.

Patrick McGurgan spoke on Tuesday after an inquest into the death of Kenny Andrews, 31, from Bangor, Co Down, on September 10, 2018.

Mr Andrews came off a jetski in Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh.

On Monday, the coroner heard an inquest into the death of Portstewart mother-of-three Edelle McGlade, who was found to have drowned after falling into water at Portglenone Marina on June 28, 2018.

Mr McGurgan said he intends to write to the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities to urge that the wearing of lifejackets while being in or around water becomes mandatory.

The Coroner’s Court, sitting at Newtownards courthouse on Tuesday, heard a friend of Mr Andrews who came off the same jetski, make a plea to others to wear lifejackets.

The inquest heard that Mr Andrews and Stephen Kennedy had gone together to Edgewater Caravan Park near Kesh on September 9, 2018, where Mr Andrews had a jetski.

They had not been wearing lifejackets or wetsuits when they went out together on the jetski.

Mr Kennedy, who had been sitting behind Mr Andrews on the jetski, agreed he had been lucky to survive the incident.

Mr Kennedy described how they had set out at about 4.50pm, travelling in a straight line in choppy conditions before agreeing to return to shore.

I would say be safe, wear a life jacket, wear a wetsuit Stephen Kennedy

“He (Kenny) gradually slowed down, we had been going out straight, he made a sharp right turn to go back in, and that’s when we hit a wave and both came off,” he told the inquest.

“We were under for a few seconds and came back up.

“We were trying to get our breath, he was a few feet away I would say, the jetski was drifting, we were panicking, we could hardly breathe because of how cold the water was.”

Mr Kennedy was tearful as he described his friend shouting at him to swim towards the jetski.

“The water was too strong for me, at this point Kenny shouted keep swimming.

“I turned around because I assumed he was behind me and he wasn’t, he was under water,” he said.

Mr Kennedy was rescued from the water after between 10 and 15 minutes by local jetskiers. Mr Andrews’ body was found in the lake the next day by police divers.

When asked by Mr McGurgan what advice he would have for others, Mr Kennedy responded: “I would say be safe, wear a life jacket, wear a wetsuit.”

His mother and father were excused from attending the inquest into the death of their only child.

In a statement read to the Coroner’s Court, Jacqueline Andrews said things had “not been good” since their son’s death, adding her husband was struggling to see a future for himself.

This death was completely unnecessary and completely avoidable if a lifejacket had been worn Patrick McGurgan

Mr McGurgan found that Mr Andrews had died from drowning.

“The inquest has highlighted the absolute necessity of wearing a lifejacket, I can’t understand why there is no law in Northern Ireland making lifejackets compulsory, it is in operation in the Republic of Ireland,” he said.

“Whenever you enter the water or are around the water, putting on a lifejacket should be the same as putting on a seatbelt, it should just be second nature quite frankly.

“There is a mindset that has to be changed and I am determined to ensure the law is changed in this regard.

“This death was completely unnecessary and completely avoidable if a lifejacket had been worn.

“We are just lucky we are not dealing with two inquests.”

PA

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