River canoeist in weir tragedy had taken cannabis

West Yorkshire coroner David Hinchliff
West Yorkshire coroner David Hinchliff
Have your say

A MAN died and his friend was lucky to survive when their canoe hit a large wave as they travelled over a fast-flowing weir.

Philip Reed and his friend Matthew Tempest had been smoking cannabis as they paddled down the River Aire, in Leeds, and during their journey had pulled over to have a cup of tea and to discuss how to tackle the weir they were about to paddle over in their inflatable canoe.

An inquest in Leeds yesterday heard how Mr Reed, 30, was kneeling at the front of the canoe when it went over the weir which could have made him more unstable and caused him to fall out of the canoe.

However, tests showed he also had quite a high reading of cannabis in his system at the time of his death, which may have affected his ability to react when he was in danger.

The pair, who were well-equipped for their journey, had paddled over the weir several times before but the hearing was told that the river on the day was “fast flowing”.

After the accident the emerg-ency services put off the search for the canoe because the water was too dangerous.

In a statement, read out at yesterday’s hearing, Mr Tempest said he first caught sight of conditions as they went over the weir he knew they were in trouble.

He saw a wave about 3ft high – which he had never seen before. Mr Reed was thrown from the canoe but as he tried to get back in both men fell in.

In his statement, Mr Tempest, said: “I honestly thought I was going to die.”

West Yorkshire Coroner, David Hinchliff, told the hearing: “His friend managed to struggle to safety but Mr Reed was not seen again.”

Mr Reed’s body was later discovered and Mr Tempest said he was devastated when he found out what had happened.

Mr Hinchliff asked Det Con David Armstrong if it appeared the two men had been surprised by the conditions.

“As Matthew said he had never seen the wave at the bottom so high,” Mr Armstrong said.

The accident happened in February last year at Rodley, Leeds.

The inflatable canoe was suitable for use in rivers and some coastal areas.

Mr Reed, of Oakwood Lane, Gipton, Leeds, was a shop worker.

The two men had been friends for a number of years and a statement provided by Mr Tempest said his friend was a cannabis user.

It was difficult to know how long cannabis found after his death had been in his system.

Stephen Morley, a consultant in clinical chemistry, was asked by Mr Hinchliff if the levels of cannabis found in Mr Reed’s system could affect a person’s ability to respond to an emergency or to perceive what was going on.

Mr Morley responded “Yes.”

The hearing was told Mr Reed died as a result of drowning.

Mr Hinchliff recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Speaking after yesterday’s hearing, Mr Reed’s mother, Brenda Reed said: “He will be sadly missed.

“He was the kindest person ever.”