Tragic canoeist drowned ‘doing what she loved’

THE mother of a university lecturer who drowned while kayaking in a Yorkshire Dales river on New Year’s Day, said yesterday that she died doing what she loved.

Mother-of-one Kate Stainsby, 41, a senior physiotherapy lecturer at York St John University, drowned in the River Rawthey, near Sedbergh, after her kayak became wedged in a 20-yard stretch of rapids, an inquest at Preston Coroner’s Court heard yesterday.

Speaking after the inquest, her mother Diane Stainsby told the Yorkshire Post: “Kate lived her life to the full and died doing something she loved.

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“We are a close family already and this has brought us closer together.”

Ms Stainsby, of Swinton, near Malton, had spent New Year’s Eve with her partner Paul Simpson and three-year-old daughter Hannah, before she headed out to into the Yorkshire Dales the next day with friends and fellow York Canoe Club members Ian Puckrin, Paul Kilner and Orna O’Toole.

The inquest heard they met up with a fellow group of kayakers before deciding to head down the river in two groups of four.

It was on the last stretch of rapids that Ms Stainsby became wedged and her kayak filled with the fast-flowing water before sinking into the river.

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Despite desperate attempts to pull her free, the inquest heard she was submerged for more than 10 minutes.

She was airlifted to Royal Preston Hospital but was pronounced dead on January 3.

Ms O’Toole, who had kayaked regularly with Ms Stainsby over the past 10 years including a trip last year to the French Alps, said: “I would say Kate was an experienced kayaker, like me she had some breaks from it and her confidence would go up and down depending on how much we had done that particular year.

“Kate had paddled that river previously, she didn’t remember a lot of the river and was asking questions about what was coming up next.

“We were making a joke about it.”

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Their group, which included Ms Stainsby, Ms O’Toole, Mr Puckrin and another kayaker Phil Mitchell, had already negotiated a number of rapids before getting to the steep final stretch.

Ms Stainsby was the third to go through it, with the two men already waiting at the bottom and Ms O’Toole watching from the top.

“I noticed she was slightly off the line, slightly more to the right than the boys before,” Ms O’Toole said.

“That didn’t cause very much concern because I thought she would correct the flow.

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“As she dropped further round I lost sight of her and from that point I could see on Phil’s face that he had a slight look of concern which indicated the kayak must have turned over or been in some sort of difficulty.

“I immediately jumped out of my kayak – I had my safety line in my hand and jumped on to a rock.

“I could not see Kate or the kayak but I saw one of Kate’s hands raised out of the rapid and I threw my safety line to that.

“I did not feel a tug on the line as I pulled it.”

Mr Puckrin, of York, who has more than 25 years experience of kayaking, jumped in to try and retrieve Ms Stainsby but could not find any trace of her in the water before he was dragged away by the current.

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They eventually managed to dangle Mr Mitchell by his legs into the river to tie a rope on to the submerged canoe and pull it free with the help of a passing walker.

Paramedics arrived on the scene shortly after.

Her father Alan Stainsby, a first aid volunteer with the ambulance service and an experienced canoeist who regularly took family trips with his daughter, told the inquest that he felt Ms Stainsby’s fellow kayakers and the emergency services had done everything they could to save her life.

Simon Jones, deputy coroner for Preston, ruled Ms Stainsby died from drowning.