Thursday 18 July 2019

It was 'far too dangerous' to save Irish dad from rough seas during Storm Callum, inquest hears

David Dooley has been remembered as a 'lovely friend'
David Dooley has been remembered as a 'lovely friend'

Flora Thompson

Police officers were ordered not to go into rough seas during Storm Callum as an Irish father struggled to swim to safety and drowned, an inquest has heard.

Officers said David Dooley had drifted too far out to sea and the weather was so bad it was unsafe to try to rescue him, the hearing was told.

The 38-year-old was swept out to sea when he was on a night out in Brighton, East Sussex, on October 13.

Born in Dublin, Mr Dooley - who has a son called Brendan - lived in Tullamore, Co Offaly, before moving to Chiswick, west London.

A post-mortem examination found he died after drowning but "serious intoxication" was a contributing factor.

Toxicology reports showed he was almost four times the drink-drive limit and had traces of cocaine in his system, Brighton and Hove Coroner's Court was told.

Mr Dooley was spotted "waving his arms and making attempts to return to shore" in the "very rough" sea with "high winds and large waves" before he fell lifeless and his body was seen floating, the inquest heard.

His Ukrainian wife Khrystyna left the hearing in tears as Detective Sergeant Kerry Bartup told the court officers were ordered not to go into the sea.

They had been unable to find any of the lifebuoys situated at points along the seafront and because they were on foot patrol, did not have access to throw lines sometimes kept in police cars.

Instead they tried to shout advice to Mr Dooley over the noise of the waves, kept other members of the public back from the water's edge and tried to get equipment sent from a nearby police station.

Officers were called at 1.21am and arrived and reported seeing him in the water at 1.23am, according to a timeline of correspondence with the control room read to the court.

By 1.34am Mr Dooley could no longer be seen moving, the coastguard arrived at around 1.54am and his body was found at around 2am.

Reading evidence to the court, Det Sgt Bartup said it was "far too dangerous" for officers to go out and a sergeant "made the decision that no-one was to go into the water".

She added: "Officers felt concerned about their own safety and other members of the public."

When Mrs Dooley came back into the room, she asked: "You saw him struggling for about 20 minutes in the water but nobody could help him?"

Det Sgt Bartup added: "I am really sorry."

In a statement read to the court, Mr Dooley's friend Andrew Mather told how the pair - who met at work in Ireland 26 years ago but had lost contact - arranged to meet in Brighton after he got in touch to say he was moving to Sussex for work.

The pair spent the afternoon and evening together drinking and eating before sitting with cans of lager to drink on the beach, chatting and laughing, he said.

Then Mr Dooley went down to the water's edge but Mr Mather had a "feeling something was wrong" and saw he had disappeared so raised the alarm with security staff at the nearby Coalition nightclub, who contacted the police.

Mr Mather added: "I was scared he had gone in the water."

Helicopters could not be sent out because of the weather conditions and lifeboat crews had to battle crashing waves to get to the body, the hearing was told.

Paramedics could not resuscitate him.

Mr Dooley was one of two people to die as the storm wreaked devastation across western parts and coastal areas of the country that weekend.

Corey Thomas Sharpling, 21, of Newcastle Emlyn, was killed near the village of Cwmduad in Carmarthenshire, west Wales, on the same day.

When news of Mr Dooley's death emerged, The Windmill pub in Acton - where he was a regular - paid tribute to a "lovely friend".

A campaign for donations was set up to help pay for his funeral and realise his wish to be buried in Ireland.

Assistant coroner Gilva Tisshaw decided to adjourn the inquest to investigate "matters of concern", adding: "If a lifeline had been available to the officers earlier, would the outcome have been different."

The hearing will resume at 10am on March 19.

PA Media

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News