Monday 22 January 2018

Asthmatic canoeist died after capsizing

Georgina O'Halloran

AN asthmatic dad taking part in a beginners' canoeing course died days after he passed out in the water as he tried to take an inhaler from his pocket.

Brian Dempsey (52) had successfully capsized his canoe as part of a drill shortly before he was pulled from the water, Dublin County Coroner's Court was told yesterday. The inquest was told Mr Dempsey was taking part in a course run by the Irish Canoe Union on the River Liffey.

Mr Dempsey, of Blarney Park, Kimmage, Dublin 12, was not breathing and had no pulse when he taken from the Liffey at the Irish Canoe Union training centre in Dublin's Strawberry Beds on May 16 2009. Mr Dempsey had successfully completed a standard capsize drill for the second time that day and was swimming when his instructor Oliver Coffey noticed he was short of breath.

"I paddled towards him. I told him to hold my boat and I would assist him to the bank. As he was holding onto the boat he tried to take his inhaler from him pocket which he didn't succeed in doing.

"He held onto my boat as I paddled to the bank and then he let go. Brian was unconscious," Mr Coffey told the inquest.

Mr Dempsey was using a nylon springdeck, a device which attaches the canoe to the canoeist to prevent water entering it, for the first time that that day.

The device, which was for beginners, was easy to get out of and "pops off" when you go upside down, the court heard.

Mr Coffey alerted the other instructors of the emergency and brought Mr Dempsey to the riverbank where the instructors carried out CPR until an ambulance arrived approximately 10 minutes later.

Mr Dempsey was brought to James Connolly Emergency Hospital where he was pronounced dead five days later.

Senior instructor Patrick Neeson said that when Mr Dempsey came up for air after capsizing, he was coughing and in distress and appeared to have swallowed water.

A post-mortem found Mr Dempsey, who had significant heart disease, died of heart failure and pneumonia secondary to inhalation of water with heart disease and asthma.

A jury of five women and four men returned a verdict of accidental death under the direction of coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty.


The jury recommended that people should be asked for a medical certificate, saying they are fit to undergo these type of courses. Conor Ryan, of the Irish Canoe Union, said he would pass the recommendation onto the union committee.

Earlier, asked by Dr Geraghty if they would consider requesting certification from a doctor, Mr Ryan said: "No, not really."

He said they ask people to fill in a form detailing any medical condition they have.

"It's a very elementary, basic level (of canoeing)," he said.

"If somebody was suddenly submerged in very cold water and they have an underlying condition, it could trigger a reaction. It's not like going for a walk in the woods," said the coroner.

Irish Independent

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