Friday, 17 September 2021

Warning signs for weir where kayaker died

A NEW sign warning boat users not to go near Shiplake weir is to be erected after a man drowned.

A NEW sign warning boat users not to go near Shiplake weir is to be erected after a man drowned there.

The Environment Agency, which is responsible for the River Thames in that area, revealed its plan at an inquest into the death Michael Moore at Oxfordshire Coroners’ Court on Tuesday.

Mr Moore, 42, of Church Street, Wargrave, drowned when his kayak capsized and he was under water for about 10 minutes.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Darren Salter said the new sign should help to prevent similar incidents in future.

Mr Moore, a property developer, grew up in London and Surrey but moved to Wargrave with his family to be closer to the Thames.

His wife Sarah, 42, was learning to row and daughters Imogen, a pupil at Piggott School in Wargrave, and Evie, a pupil at Piggott Junior School, were having sculling and skiffing lessons.

The tragedy happened on June 1 when Mr Moore was enjoying a day on the river with his daughters.

He hired a kayak from Wargrave Boating Club, where he had been a member for only a few weeks, and went for a paddle on his own while one of his daughters was on another stretch of water and the other was taking a rest on the bank by the club.

The inquest heard how the club called lock-keeper Andrew Feak to say the kayak hadn’t been returned and his family were waiting at the clubhouse for him.

The coroner read out a statement by Richard Sorsbie, a chartered accountant, who said he had noticed a man on his own paddling hard towards the current but did not see him return. He said he was wearing a life jacket but no helmet.

No witnesses saw the incident but Glyn Townsend, who was canoeing with his son, saw Mr Moore floating head-down in the water. He pulled him out of the water and took him to the bank by a campsite, where he and Juliet Weller, a cardiac nurse, performed CPR treatment.

Police and an ambulance arrived at the scene and tried to revive Mr Moore. He was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, where he was pronounced dead.

A post-mortem report showed that although Mr Moore had suffered a cut to his right temple, he died by drowning.

The Environment Agency had issued a “red” stream warning at Shiplake lock two days before the incident. This was downgraded to a “yellow” warning the following day but there were no cautions in place on the day itself.

In a statement, the agency said the weir structure was well-maintained but the turbulent water and pattern of flow would have remained “significant and visible” when Mr Moore was kayaking.

There were two 5ft “danger” signs on top of the weir.

The agency said: “They are clearly visible from a considerable distance down the river. People see ‘danger’ and keep away.”

Mr Feak, who has worked as a lock-keeper for 32 years, told the coroner that the weir had anti-scour sills and was one of the most dangerous types because it created a stronger water flow.

He said: “You can see the flow from several hundred yards away and the water is very noisy.

“The campers who have grown up there are educated about it and know exactly where and when they can go. I’ve never seen a canoeist right up there in the river.

“Just after the incident there was a fisherman in a canoe and he was paddling up but was really worried and turned round straight away.”

He said the water levels had been within the recommended perimeters and it had been a sunny and clear day.Colin Hounslow, team leader for the site, said the agency was reviewing its risk assessments, in particular looking at signage by its weirs.

He said: “On this site we will be putting up a standard sign saying something like ‘turbulent water’.”

The coroner said the signs “could only be helpful”.

He added: “This case does indicate the dangers that there are of kayaking or canoeing on your own. It’s very often the case that there’s a particular danger in doing it on one’s own.

“Having said that, Michael was wearing a life jacket or a buoyancy aid but nevertheless has clearly got into difficulty.

“It would seem reasonable that was because of the flow of water from the weir but it’s not a hot spot where there have been fatalities or significant problems in the past.”

More News:

POLL: Have your say