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Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Coroner wants stricter checks on divers after Lake District death

A coroner is urging stricter health checks on divers after a tragic death in England’s deepest lake.

An inquest jury concluded that diving instructor Carl Morris, 39, died of natural causes after suffering a heart attack during a dive which took him 50m below the surface of Wastwater in January last year.

The Cockermouth hearing was told that his last medical certificate saying he was fit to dive was issued in November 2011, and lasted just six months because of concern over his high body mass index.

The 6ft 1in property entrepreneur alternated between 17 and 21-stone, depending on diet, and smoked 20 cigarettes a day, his widow Deborah told the hearing.

The regulatory body for diving, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) already has rules saying a valid medical check has to be in place for technical dives of 40m depth or more, Health and Safety Executive officer Mark Renouf told the inquest.

But no-one checked whether Mr Morris’s health certificate was still valid before the fateful dive.

Robert Chapman, assistant coroner for north and west Cumbria, said he would write an official letter to PADI urging them to have a robust system in place to make sure such checks are made.

The letter will be copied to the Chief Coroner for England and Wales and PADI will be required to reply within 56 days under legislation designed to reduce the risk of deaths that result in inquests.

The inquest was told that home office pathologist Dr Alison Armer, who carried out the post mortem examination, found Mr Morris of Huddersfield had a blood clot in an artery and his heart was damaged. He died of a heart attack.

His instructor, John Timperley, of Manchester, told the jury he, Mr Morris and a colleague Tony Donald, had descended to more than 50m.

Mr Morris grabbed Mr Timperley’s harness indicating he wanted to go back to the surface. Holding onto each other the pair ascended but 12m from the surface Mr Morris let go.

Mr Timperley never saw his friend again. He swam to the surface and the alarm was raised

Police experts found Mr Morris’s body at the bottom of the lake two days later.

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