Death Of Gosport Kayaker Ruled An Accident

14 September 2015, 18:29 | Updated: 14 September 2015, 18:31

A ``fit and healthy'' kayaker drowned after he underestimated the strength of the wind and tides as he embarked on a 10-mile paddle, an inquest has heard.

Stephen Taylor, who had taken up the sport three years earlier, set off from Hill Head, Hampshire, and took just one-and-a-half hours to reach his destination of Lepe in the New Forest on April 18.

But an inquest at Portsmouth heard the 54-year-old, from Gosport, had not taken into account the strength of a spring tide and a north-easterly wind which made his return journey more difficult.

His partner Michelle Fuller told the hearing that Mr Taylor, who had two daughters and five grandchildren, had prepared for the adventure, which was to be his longest trip yet, through daily exercise and regular trips using his kayak.

She said he sent her a selfie of himself on the beach at Lepe but then called her later when he had abandoned a first attempt to return home because of the strength of the tide.

She said: ``He was struggling with the tide and wasn't making any headway so he was going to sit back on the beach and wait for the tide.

``I got the last call at 7.40pm, I could hear in his voice he was tired, I could hear the wind on the phone, it was taking him much longer, he hadn't planned to be out in the dark.''

Pc Matthew Gransden, of Hampshire police's marine unit, said a dredger had passed Mr Taylor around the same time as the last sighting of him and this wash could have caused him to capsize or fall out of the kayak. He said it would have been difficult to get back into the kayak because of the cold sea temperatures and his fatigue from the long trip.

The inquest heard he had completed just half of the return journey in more than two-and-a-half hours.

He said: ``Stephen Taylor was a victim of the wind and the sea conditions in the Solent. He underestimated the effect those would have on his return journey. Stephen was still a relative novice and was still learning his sport, his choice of kayak may not have been the most suitable.

``It's important to acknowledge that even for a fit man like Stephen, this three-hour journey must have been exhausting.''

He said the body of Mr Taylor was found face-down in the water by the Lymington lifeboat the following day near the Isle of Wight.

David Horsley, Portsmouth coroner, said a post-mortem examination found the cause of death to be drowning and he recorded a verdict of accidental death.

He said: ``It all adds up that although Stephen has prepared sensibly for this trip and kept himself fit and was serious and committed to his kayaking, everything has conspired against him, wind, tide and other vessels in the Solent.

``We will never know exactly but he has fallen out of his kayak or it has overturned, and he has been unable to get back in and sadly he has drowned.

``What has happened can be described as an extremely tragic accident.''