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Ludlow man's canoe death prompts questions over safety advice
9:20am Thursday 6th September 2012 in News
THE grieving family of a canoeist who died on the River Teme has questioned whether official guides are giving out conflicting safety advice.
Steve Wall was canoeing at Forge bridge in Downton-on-the-Rock, near Ludlow, on January 5 when he was knocked from his kayak on Bringwood weir.
His daughter Amy, who was in her own canoe, screamed for help but could only watch as the 48- year-old was dragged under.
Steve, of Elton, near Ludlow, was pronounced dead Shrewsbury Royal Hospital an hour later.
At an inquest at Hereford Town Hall last week, a lawyer representing Steve’s family raised concerns that British Canoe Union (BCU) had published conflicting advice.
The BCU’s English White Water guidebook – which Steve used – only mentions the horseshoe-shaped weir, but the BCU West Midlands website says canoeists “must not” attempt to cross it and it had claimed lives in the past.
The inquest heard there was, according to locals, once a sign warning of danger above the weir but it is no longer there.
Canoe coach Simon Pond, who visited the scene a few days after the accident, gave evidence as an impartial expert.
He said the weir did have a reputation for being dangerous but the website advice was “over-egging it”.
“A competent paddler would be able to shoot the weir,” said Mr Pond, who said both Steve and Amy, members of Wyre Forest Canoe Club, were experienced.
“At the levels I saw when I went to take photographs, I would have been prepared to shoot the weir and lead groups over it.
“I wouldn’t paddle it in high waters.”
In a statement read to the inquest, BCU director of coaching Mike Devlin said the guidebook warns canoeists conditions change rapidly and paddlers must use their own judgement every time they get into the water.
Deputy coroner for Herefordshire Roland Wooderson advised the BCU to review the wording in the guide.
He told the family he had watched footage of the accident, captured on Amy’s helmet camera, and said: “In my judgement it seems Miss Wall did everything in her power to assist her father.”
A verdict of accidental death was recorded.