Pair plunged to deaths despite warning

TWO men who died after jumping into the sea from an Essex pier had been warned of the dangers seconds before they plunged to their deaths, an inquest heard.

Elliot Furniss

TWO men who died after jumping into the sea from an Essex pier had been warned of the dangers seconds before they plunged to their deaths, an inquest heard.

Kelvin Rothwell, 43, and John Castleman, 48, both from Clacton, died after they jumped 20ft into the North Sea from Clacton Pier on July 12 last year.

Deputy Coroner for Essex Dr Jolanta McKenzie heard that the two men, who had been “drinking heavily” in the preceding hours, were spoken to at length by a member of staff just before they jumped.

The inquest heard that the pair, whose four friends had already made the plunge, had been told of the dangers they could encounter but ignored the advice as well as nearby warning signs and made the fatal decision to jump.

Ian Hooper, assistant manager of the pier and also in charge of security at the time, told the hearing that at about 6.15pm, he was told by a fellow member of staff that four men had already leapt from the pier and two more looked as if they were about to follow.

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He said: “I told them there were rip tides and bits of the old pier under the water that would do them some damage.

“I spent about 10 minutes talking to them and I thought I had convinced them not to jump. On turning away I heard two splashes.”

He said the men seemed “quite well oiled” and were “definitely under the influence” when he spoke to them.

They were quickly seen to be struggling as they drifted out to sea and the emergency services, including the coastguard, police, ambulance service and an RAF rescue helicopter, were called.

The inquest heard that at one point a member of the public swam out to sea to try to rescue the pair, but ran into difficulty himself and also needed rescuing.

Mr Castleman and Mr Rothwell were eventually plucked from the sea by coastguards about 150 metres from the shore and were given CPR before being rushed by helicopter to Colchester General Hospital.

Three other members of the group made it safely to the shore while a fourth was rescued.

Mr Castleman died a short time after arriving at hospital while Mr Rothwell lost his fight for life five days later on July 12.

Post mortem examinations carried out later concluded that Mr Rothwell died from “immersion in water” while Mr Castleman's cause of death was drowning.

A toxicology report showed that Mr Castleman, a former soldier, had a “considerable level” of blood alcohol in his body at the time of his death.

Temporary Inspector Vincent Osborne, of Essex Police, said there had been other similar deaths - known as “tombstoning” - around the country last summer.

However, at the time of the incident coastguards said the leap was not an example of the dangerous craze which sees people leap into rocky waters from cliffs and hope to avoid injury.

Neither man had any family present at the hearing as Dr McKenzie recorded verdicts of accidental death in both cases.

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