Suffolk: Stag night death was a tragic accident - inquest

A MAN found in a submerged car after disappearing from a stag night might have driven into the river without realising it was there, an inquest has heard.

Former Woodbridge School pupil Charles Watson, 25, of Henstead, was found in his car in the New Cut waterway between the rivers Yare and Waveney in St Olaves, Norfolk on April 13.

Mr Watson, known as Sam, was last seen on a night out in Great Yarmouth at 1.40am on April 9.

An inquest at Norwich Coroner’s Court heard that the alcohol level in his body was almost three times the legal drink-drive limit. Friends said that he seemed in good spirits and in control of himself.

Coroner William Armstrong said his alcohol consumption may have contributed to the accident and hindered any attempt to escape as the car flipped and sunk.

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Crash investigator Sergeant Andy Hood said that evidence suggests Mr Watson attempted to escape but, disorientated by being upside down and by alcohol, had accidentally lowered the wrong electric window.

The car would have filled quickly with water, he said.

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“There were no mechanical defects with the car. Because of the way the road is, drivers can’t always see the river beyond,” Sgt Hood said.

Mr Watson was out celebrating at his friend Paul Miller’s stag do. At the end of the night Mr Miller’s father-in-law offered the group lifts home but Mr Watson declined.

Mr Miller said: “Sam was a quiet, kind, considerate and helpful person. On the night he seemed in control of himself. We went bowling and I could hardly hit the skittles but he was getting strikes.”

Mr Watson arranged to stay with a colleague after the night out. He sent a text message at 3.15am saying that he found somewhere else to stay. Police believe the car entered the water at 3.16am.

One theory is that he stopped to send the message from the side road and as he turned around, accidentally drove his Volkswagen Golf into the river which is up to 15 metres deep.

The car was in first gear and probably driving at low speed, the inquest heard.

He was found four days later by Pc Nafica White who was commended for her initiative in tracking the car down.

“We knew from his phone that he had been in the area and I knew his car had not been found, so I went to the river. Using my torch I saw what I thought was the upper wheel of a car,” she told the inquest.

Mr Armstrong recorded a verdict that Mr Watson died an accidental death from drowning.

“I would like to offer my sympathy to the family. This was a tragic death and I’m sure unanswered questions will continue to haunt the family,” he said.

Outside the court, Mr Watson’s family said that they hope the verdict will bring them closure.

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