Inquest: Pensioner cradled dead husband after he fell into South Lakeland beck (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Inquest: Pensioner cradled dead husband after he fell into South Lakeland beck
A PENSIONER shouted for help while cradling her dead husband after he fell into a South Lakeland beck, an inquest heard.
Anthony Downing, who lived with his wife Mavis at Kaker Mill Cottage, Preston Patrick, near Endmoor, died in Peasey Beck, which borders the cottage, on April 21.
Earlier that morning, the 73-year-old, who was known as Tony, complained to his wife of having breathing difficulties and a bad night’s sleep.
A pathologist’s report concluded he died as a result of drowning and bleeding caused by a ruptured spleen sustained by the fall.
It also highlighted that Mr Downing had several underlying health conditions, including the early stages of liver cirrhosis, a blockage on his lung - affecting breathing and potentially causing dizziness from restricted oxygen reaching his brain - and a chest infection.
And three days earlier, the coach driver and fishing instructor had a prostate operation at Kendal’s Westmorland General Hospital.
Mrs Downing, who was married to her husband for nearly 40 years, became worried after he failed to return from the newsagents.
She told the hearing: “I followed him downstairs thinking he had gone for the newspapers, our Saturday ritual, and noticed that the car was still there. I gave it five minutes or so thinking he would come in at any time and then, when he didn’t come back, I went to try and find him.
“I went back into the house and he wasn’t there and then I got a little concerned. I went out and noticed there were some plant pots that had fallen down into the river so, making a mental note that I must tell Tony to put them back again, I went over to them and he was there.
“He was lying on his back, he looked so peaceful. It was like a dream, I couldn’t understand what he was doing there.
“He had no reason to go into the garden, he was going for newspapers. I wondered whether he went out for some fresh air.”
Mrs Downing managed to climb down four feet into the strong-flowing beck to cradle her husband and lift his head above the water.
“I picked his head up and all I could do was shout for help,” she explained.
Her cries were heard by Susan Speakman, a visitor of nearby Kaker Mill Caravan Park, who rushed to Mrs Downing’s side.
Mrs Speakman, of Manchester, entered the water with a man who had also raced to the scene, in an effort to pull Mr Downing free.
But she told the inquest she suspected he was already dead as the emergency services arrived.
South and East Cumbria Coroner Ian Smith, sitting at Kendal County Hall, said Mr Downing died from a ‘combination of natural causes and an accident’.
Mr Smith said: “I suspect he became overcome by one of the medical problems he had, which happened to be at that particular point and, as a consequence, he went into the water.
“To ignore the natural illness would be to imply he tripped - and he didn’t. The illness was a factor in what happened.
“It’s impossible for me to say that he knocked himself unconscious straight away but he may have done. He clearly didn’t know very much by the time Mrs Downing had got there. He was unconscious and probably dead.”
Mr Smith also thanked Mrs Speakman for trying to save Mr Downing.