'No-one to blame' for drowning

ROSA STUDHOLME
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2013

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A coroner has highlighted the "quick and deadly" nature of water in his findings into the death of Timaru man Trent Ashton.

Mr Ashton, 22, drowned in Lake Opuha two days before Christmas, 2011. He dived into the water from a runabout vessel and after getting into difficulty was unable to get back on board. His body was located by a member of the public 12 days later after an extensive police search including helicopter and grid searches.

Toxicology results showed there was a "modest" amount of alcohol in his system. He had removed his lifejacket.

Coroner Richard McElrea's findings describe the frantic moments where Mr Ashton's friends desperately tried to save him, throwing him a rope and lifejackets, and diving in to try to drag him back on to the boat.

Mr McElrea found no fault on the part of the friends and said the police response and search was appropriate.

"The case illustrates how a drowning situation can rapidly evolve in apparently benign circumstances.

"It also illustrates the dangers of swimming after consumption of alcohol, even if the amount consumed is modest, as it was in this case." Water Safety New Zealand had endorsed the message highlighted by the case of the deadly nature of water "which in itself is an important issue for all New Zealanders to be mindful of".

Mr Ashton's mother, Shirley, said last night the tragedy happened on the first day of his holiday. "It was just meant to be a fun day out that turned tragic."

She was happy no-one had been blamed.

"It was nobody's fault," she said.

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- The Timaru Herald

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