Retired teacher died after boat overturned, inquest told

A retired public school teacher from Oxfordshire died after a summer sailing trip turned to disaster in West Cork.

Retired teacher died after boat overturned, inquest told

Douglas Perrin, who was 66, had retired to live at Ard na Gaotha, Dunmanus, Goleen, Co Cork, a year before his death last August.

He had purchased his 24ft sailing boat, a Drascombe Lugger called The Zillah, two years previously.

The former sailing teacher was “very safety conscious”, an inquest into his death heard yesterday.

“He decided to take some friends on a short sailing trip, we were due to have dinner at 7pm,” said his wife Judith Perrin in a statement.

Mr Perrin gave his guests, Marian Brown, from Oxford, and Patrick Anwyl, from London, life jackets before departing Schull pier at about 4pm on August 13 2014.

“Three people fitted comfortably into the sailing boat, Douglas had given us life jackets and we had no worries as he knew the area,” Ms Brown said.

Feeling sea-sick, Ms Brown passed the operation of the rudder to Mr Anwyl.

“Around this time the boat overturned, I held onto the keel as best I could. Patrick was holding onto the back, Douglas was also holding on. We were about 50 yards from an island, collectively we discussed it and started to swim.

“I did the breast stroke first and then turned over onto my back and once the swell dropped we managed to climb onto a dry section of rock. We could see Douglas lying passively in the water, just drifting,” Ms Brown said in her statement, read out at yesterday’s inquest before Coroner Frank O’Connell in Bandon Courthouse.

Mr Anwyl said the weather was “quite gusty but good sailing conditions” and the crew had completed a couple of tacks, then jibbed when the boat capsized.

The decision to swim to the uninhabited Castle Island was made because the boat was drifting further from land. “Douglas decided to swim; we decided to go as a group. Douglas said he was getting cold and had swallowed a lot of water. Once on the rocks we were knocked around quite a bit because of the swell ... we knew we were safe but had to be rescued,” Mr Anwyl said.

The surviving pair watched the Coast Guard helicopter pass over their location twice that night. “The helicopter swept over us twice, we were in the beam, but they didn’t see us,” Ms Brown said.

She described feeling “excited and delighted” when Schull Inshore Lifeboat and Baltimore RNLI arrived early the following morning.

Mr Perrin’s body was found 200m off the northern end of Sherkin Island later that day. He died of acute cardiac failure due to drowning and hypothermia was “almost certainly” a factor, according to Dr Margaret Bolster, the assistant state pathologist. Emphysema and ventricular fibrosis were contributory factors to his death.

Coroner Frank O’Connell returned a verdict of accidental death. “Even before the two survivors reached the shore he was in deep trouble,” the Coroner said. “He was unconscious at an early stage and ultimately drowned.”

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