Man drowned on family holiday to Canary Islands, inquest told

HM Coroner for the Western Area of West Yorkshire Martin Fleming
HM Coroner for the Western Area of West Yorkshire Martin Fleming

A dad who drowned during a family holiday was ‘woefully let down’ by inadequate life-saving equipment an inquest was told.

Carl Thompson, had been swimming in the sea during the second day of a holiday on the island of Fuerteventura when a sudden rip current pulled him under the water on August 10 last year.

Lifeguards pulled him from the sea but he was unresponsive when a British nurse and a German doctor tried to resuscitate him on the beach.

A defibrillator machine intended to resuscitate Mr Thompson, 36, did not have a battery and other medical equipment was damaged or missing.

It also took emergency services 50 minutes to arrive with a backup defibrillator the hearing at Bradford was told.

Coroner Martin Fleming said: “The sea suddenly turned treacherous and it was completely unexpected.

“There is no evidence to suggest the lifeguards did not act professionally or with the requisite urgency.

“Carl was let down by the woefully inadequate life-saving equipment and a lack of experience in its use.

“His death has been devastating to his family and I can see they are still struggling to come to terms with their loss.”

Witnesses, including Mr Thompson’s partner Sally Barratt, told the inquest there was a sudden change in the undercurrent of the water.

British nurse Margaret Merryweather who helped with attempts to save Mr Thompson said the defibrillator pads were also covered in sand and would not stick.

The hearing was also told Dewsbury-born Mr Thompson was health conscious and a strong swimmer,

In a narrative verdict, the cause of death was given as asphyxia by drowning.

Mr Fleming said it could not be known whether a quicker response with a working defibrillator would have saved Mr Thompson’s life.

The coroner said: “The family needed reassurances that everything was done that could be done to save him but because of the failure of equipment that is not something they can have.

“It is not known whether it would have made any difference to this tragedy.”

The inquest heard that the council-run beach used a coloured-flag system to advise holidaymakers of currents in the water.

A yellow flag was displayed at the time Mr Thompson and members of his family entered the water, indicating that there was a risk of currents but paddling was still safe.

It was raised to the more serious level red during the incident.

Mr Fleming heard tour operator Thompson Holidays, which organised the trip, included information about the flag system in its brochure as well as during presentations, but he suggested the information could be featured more prominently in the firm’s literature.

The coroner said he would write to the relevant local authorities in Corralejo, Fuerteventura, to advise that lessons could be learned regarding the faulty equipment and inadequate training.