A CORONER has called on dog owners not to risk their lives attempting to save pets from fast-flowing rivers.

The plea came at an inquest into the death of teacher Simon Martindale, 48, who was swept to his death in the River Rothay at Ambleside two days before Christmas last year.

The hearing heard that Mr Martindale, a science teacher at Morecambe Community High School, may have entered the water to rescue his pet labrador, which later saved itself.

A search which included police, fire crews, ambulance service, lake wardens, the coastguard, RAF and Langdale and Ambleside mountain rescuers, was launched but Mr Martindale was found dead in Windermere, which the River Rothay feeds into, around an hour later.

“It looks like the dog got into the water and it’s a possibility that he deliberately went into the water after it. If that did happen then it was a recipe for disaster,” said coroner for South and East Cumbria Ian Smith.

“People react very quickly when their animals go into water and sometimes do so without thinking. As a general statement if a dog goes into the water, let it find its own way to salvation.”

Lake Warden Dennis Noden discovered the body of Mr Martindale, from Hest Bank, around 300 yards from the river mouth towards the east of Windermere.

He said the river was flowing at around 15 knots and the water temperature was just seven degrees.

Passer-by and trained lifeguard Lesley Finnigan warned there would have been another ‘catastrophe’ had she attempted to save Mr Martindale.

Ms Finnigan, from Heswall on Wirral, who has 30 years experience as a lifeguard, was walking with her partner Leslie Parry on a path near the river when they heard a loud shout.

“One thing we learn is you don’t put your own life in danger,” she said.

“I have reflected on it many times since and I think there could have been more than one catastrophe had I attempted to get near him.”

Mr Parry said: “I heard a shout for help and saw a dog’s head bobbing out of the water with Mr Martindale about one metre behind it.

“I ran alongside the river but it was so fast I couldn’t keep up. I continued walking hoping he would be swept to the side and I could pull him out but sadly he didn’t.”

Mr Smith, who recorded a verdict of accidental death, told Ms Finnigan: “If you went in we would have been holding two inquests today.”