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Still no life belt a year after man drowns

The mother of a young man who drowned while out swimming has told of her anger after learning during his inquest how life-saving safety equipment was still missing almost a year on.

Donna Alexander made the comments at the inquest of her 21-year-old son Dale at the Coroner’s Court in Strabane yesterday.

Senior coroner John Leckey announced at the hearing that he will be writing to Leisure Minister Nelson McCausland to find out who has responsibility for maintaining the equipment.

Mr Leckey concluded that Dale, from Millhaven in Sion Mills, died from drowning in fresh water while swimming with his friend Martin McGee at the weir on the River Mourne on June 1 2009.

The inquest heard that Dale had gone to the bank of the weir in Sion Mills, Co Tyrone, for a barbecue picnic with his girlfriend Roisin Gallagher, Martin and sisters Stacey and Wendy McColgan.

Mr McGee told the inquest that Dale, who worked as a chef at the Fir Trees Hotel in Strabane, suggested the two friends take advantage of the warm day and go for a swim.

Mr McGee said: “I was a good bit ahead. I looked round and saw he had stopped in one spot. I got hold of him around the waist and kept pulling him up. He was struggling and panicking.

“I asked the girls for a rope or something to help but they said there was nothing there.”

An unidentified passer-by, alerted by the screams for help, jumped in and tried to locate Dale as he went under the water, but was unable to find him.

He added that he believed that had there been a rope or a life ring, his friend would have survived.

Mr Leckey praised both Mr McGee for his “valiant efforts” and the good samaritan who jumped into the river.

The Coroner said toxicology reports confirmed there was neither alcohol or drugs in Dale’s system. Dale’s parents yesterday expressed their thanks to Mr McGee and the emergency services who attended the scene.

Belfast Telegraph

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