Witness tells inquest Christopher Kapessa entered the water 'by force' before he drowned

Family Photo
13-year-old Christopher was with a group of friends playing near the water in the Fernhill area of Mountain Ash, Rhondda Cynon Taff when he entered the water in July 2019.  Credit: Family Photo

A teenage witness has told an inquest that Christopher Kapessa was allegedly pushed by another child “by force” into the River Cynon before he drowned.

13-year-old Christopher was with a group of friends playing near the water in the Fernhill area of Mountain Ash, Rhondda Cynon Taff when he entered the water in July 2019. 

The witness, who cannot be named due to his age, said the teenager accused of pushing him was initially “laughing, he was making a joke out of it” after Christopher hit the water. 

After Christopher began to panic, the boy accused of the push joined others who jumped into the water to try to rescue him. 

The group of teenagers eventually lost sight of Christopher under the murky river water. After police arrived, Christopher was eventually found and rushed to hospital but was later pronounced dead. 

Christopher's body was recovered from the river Cynon Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The inquest into his death opened on Monday 8 January, more than 4 and a half years after the incident took place and in the week Christopher would have turned 18. 

The Coroner, Mr David Regan, will conclude whether, if caused by another person, Christopher’s death was the result of a deliberate act, an accident, or some other reason.

The same male teenage witness told the court a group of friends had already been to the same spot by the river the previous day.

He said Christopher had come along with them but did not enter the water like some of the others did, and was instead sat with the girls who were not jumping. 

The counsel to the inquest, Mr Tom Leeper, asked the witness: “What did you know about Christopher’s ability to swim?”

“I knew he couldn't swim”, the witness replied. “He used to joke around a lot but I knew he couldn’t”.

On Thursday, 18-year-old witness Chloe Eggleton also gave evidence to the inquest in the Coroner’s Court in Pontypridd. 

She said Christopher arrived at the river area on 1 July 2019 knowing he wanted to go in the water as he was wearing his swimming shorts.

“He took off his t-shirt and glasses”, Miss Eggleton said. “He said he couldn't swim and [then] he said he could, we were all telling him not to in case he couldn’t.”

The teenager then described the harrowing moment at which the group of friends from Mountain Ash Comprehensive School realised that Christopher was in trouble after he had entered the water. 

“We were all screaming Chris swim”, the witness told the court. “Go on your back and you’ll float!”

Christopher Kapessa died after he was allegedly pushed into the River Cynon. Credit: Family Photos

Miss Eggleton said some of the other boys present jumped in to help him but in his state of panic, they could not get him to safety. 

“Chris was dragging everyone under the water so they had to swim to the side otherwise they would drown too”, Miss Eggleton said. 

Asked by Mr Leeper about what Christopher had said before the incident, Miss Eggleton said he had been saying: “Oh I’m going to jump in today”. 

“We all said ‘No that’s stupid’ and he said ‘No it’s not’”, Miss Eggleton told the court. 

“Why did people say it was stupid?”, Mr Leeper asked her. 

“Because he told [another child] he couldn’t swim”, Miss Eggleton replied.

Christopher Kapessa and his mum Alina Joseph Credit: Family Photo

The inquest is looking into the extent of the search by the emergency services and the deployment of available resources.

The scope of the inquest also includes looking into whether resuscitation attempts were commenced immediately upon Christopher being located, and if not, whether earlier commencement of resuscitation attempts would have altered the outcome.

The coroner also wants to establish what was known by the authorities responsible for public safety, as to whether the site was used for swimming by children, and whether any steps were or ought to have been taken to prevent such activity or warn or safeguard those undertaking them. 

The inquest is expected to last for another week.

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