Budleigh pensioner died fetching boat oar, inquest hears

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17 5978. Picture: Terry Ife

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17 5978. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A Budleigh Salterton pensioner with a history of heart problems died after jumping into the sea to fetch a boat oar, an inquest heard.

In a report read out at the hearing, at County Hall in Exeter, pathologist Dr Chris Mason said he could not be certain whether Eric Tracey, 68, died from a heart attack or by drowning. He said the cause of death was ‘undeterminable’.

Coroner for Exeter and Greater Devon, Dr Elizabeth Earland recorded a verdict of accidental death.

She said: “Mr Tracey went fishing on an engine-powered boat at approximately 10.30am. He got into difficulty when he jumped into the sea.

“I am satisfied he would not have died, but for the immersion in the water.”

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The inquest heard how Mr Tracey had gone out on a 10ft boat with a friend he knew through his gardening work, at 10.30am on August 11, 2016.

The boat they used had a motor which did not work, meaning the pair would need to use oars to row out to sea.

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Mr Tracey’s friend told the inquest how they had decided to return to shore using the boat’s oars, but quickly discovered one was floating further and further away from the boat.

The inquest was told how, despite protestations from his friend, Mr Tracey jumped into the water to retrieve the oar.

The choppy conditions of the sea meant that Mr Tracey was separated from the boat and his friend could no longer see him, prompting him to call emergency services.

Mr Tracey’s friend was rescued by lifeboat crews and taken to Exmouth docks, but refused to go to hospital due to concern for the condition of Mr Tracey, the inquest heard.

Mr Tracey was pronounced dead at the hospital at 2.47pm on August 11.

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