Drowned man had been drinking
A former Cantabrian was "grossly intoxicated" when he died while attempting to swim across a West Coast river mouth, a coroner has found.
Coroner Richard McElrea today released his findings into the death of Christopher Anton Perreau, 44, who drowned while swimming in the Mokihinui River, north of Westport, on January 24 last year.
Perreau, who lived in Woodend before moving to Mokihinui, had driven to the river mouth that afternoon ahead of three friends and their children.
The weather had been fine and the river was calm, but there had been a distinct ripple in the water where the current went out, the coroner said.
While two of his friends went fishing, Perreau decided to swim across the river mouth, taking 10 to 15 minutes to swim the 80 metres from bank to bank.
He rested for a short time and chatted to a fisherman before swimming back to the southern bank.
One of Perreau's friends noticed him go under the water about halfway across the river and unsuccessfully tried to rescue him.
"I wasn't able to get on to the bottom. There was quite a rip down below the surface. At a certain level I'd get spun around by the water," the man told the coroner.
A rescue helicopter crew found Perreau a short time later about 100m downstream, but he was unable to be revived.
Forensic pathologist Martin Sage confirmed Perreau's death was through drowning and said Perreau had been "grossly intoxicated".
Perreau's level was 228 milligrams of alcohol to 100 millilitres of blood, almost three time the legal blood-alcohol limit for an adult driver.
The coroner said none of the witnesses interviewed mentioned anything about drinking alcohol and there was no evidence on how Perreau's blood-alcohol level became so high.
The coroner ruled that Perreau's level of intoxication had probably impaired his swimming ability, resulting in his drowning.
The case highlighted Water Safety New Zealand's advice that alcohol and water do not mix.
"It is another case where the facts speak for themselves," the coroner said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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