‘Signs could have saved canoeist’

THE partner of a canoeist who died when he became trapped in swirling water has said she believes he could have been saved had there been more signs alerting him of the dangers.

Father-of-two Andrew Weatherill found himself in difficulty on the River Tyne, at Riding Mill, in Northumberland, on February 12.

An inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death last week.

The 33-year-old former soldier from Hartlepool lived with his partner Rachel Johnson, 22, and was father to their one-year-old son Charlie, and seven-year-old Louis from a previous relationship.

Police were called after a gamekeeper spotted him trapped in the centre of the river, but a rapid water rescue crew were unable to enter because it was too dangerous.

A sign marked “danger” was displayed but an inquest into his death heard he may not have seen it until it was too late.

The coroner said there should have been clearer signs.

Rachel, who now lives in Ryton, Gateshead, said: “If there were more signs further up the river he would have had more time to act.

“I think there has to be a lot more signs, not just one, to justify how dangerous that stretch is. It’s still very difficult. I still haven’t come to terms with it.

“Obviously when our son was born it was a really special memory. He was the perfect dad.

“Charlie was only four months old when it happened, but we have photos and he knows who his dad is.”

Andrew’s father, Roland, 61, said: “I would have thought this could have been prevented. He was an experienced canoeist and knew what he was doing.”

The family are now raising money for the North East Air Ambulance, one of the services who attended the scene of Andrew’s death.

Through a range of fundraising events, they have already raised more than £2,000.