Father drowned trying to save disabled daughter from canal in Cornwall, inquest told

Jessica and her father, Lawrence Casey Credit: Casey family

A father drowned while trying to save his disabled daughter after her mobility scooter fell into a canal, an inquest heard.

Former serviceman Lawrence Casey, 86, went into the Bude Canal in north Cornwall to rescue his daughter Jessica after she lost control of her scooter.

Cornwall Coroner’s Court heard the incident occurred on the afternoon of September 1 last year and was not witnessed by anyone.

A passing jogger alerted two nearby fishermen who rescued Mr Casey from the water.

A paddleboard instructor, who had heard the commotion, dived in to save Miss Casey and then started CPR on her unconscious father.

The emergency services, including the air ambulance, were soon at the scene but Mr Casey died.

The inquest heard Miss Casey, 27, who has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and is aided in communication by a tablet computer.

Her mother, Ruth Casey, told the inquest her estranged husband and daughter often went out for walks together.

“On the day in question I have been told by Jessica she and Lawrence went for a walk along Bude Canal,” she said.

“Jessica told me that somehow she went into the canal while on her mobility scooter. Jessica also told me that Daddy couldn’t swim and that she could swim, and she told me that Daddy then sank.

“I know that Lawrence can swim, and he was a very strong swimmer.

“Since Lawrence’s death, Jessica’s account of what happened has changed several times because of discussions she’s heard between family members trying to piece together what could have happened.”

The father-of-nine had joined the Merchant Navy after leaving school and also served in the RAF before setting up his own business.

Mrs Casey added: “Our marriage broke down, but we always remained on very good terms. Lawrence cared for Jessica impeccably well and he was always a great support.

“He and Jessica were very close, and he took her out most days for exercise and socialisation.”

Fisherman David Flay, who jumped into the canal to rescue Mr Casey, said he did his best to try to save his life.

“At no point did I hear Jessica tell anybody what had happened,” he said.

“I now assume that she went into the water and the male, her dad, had gone in after her to rescue her. I have never been involved in anything like this before.

“I am not first aid trained but I did everything I could to save that man’s life and I am truly sorry we were unable to.”

A post-mortem examination gave the cause of Mr Casey’s death as drowning.

Police concluded the incident happened when Miss Casey’s mobility scooter ended up in the water and Mr Casey jumped in after her.

“For reasons unexplained, Jessica has somehow driven the mobility scooter into the canal and that her father has gone in after her,” Detective Constable James McDonald said.

“As a consequence, he has either drowned or had a medical episode resulting in his death.”

Andrew Cox, senior coroner for Cornwall, recorded a conclusion of accidental death.

“Mr Casey’s daughter ended up in the canal for reasons that are not explained, and Mr Casey has gone in after his daughter in an attempt to rescue her,” he said.

“Sadly, he has either had a medical episode or he has drowned in that effort. Fortunately, Jessica was able to be recovered because of the commendable actions of those present at the time.”