A "RIDICULOUS" booze cruise that ended in tragedy when a grandad fell overboard and drowned has prompted a strong warning from Bradford's coroner that alcohol and boats are a "dangerous combination."
Alan Newby, 60, of Oxford Road, Gomersal, had been drinking beer and vodka when he fell out of his nephew's new cabin cruiser into the canal at a remote spot near Greenwood, Mirfield.
Coroner Martin Fleming heard at yesterday's inquest how Mr Newby had been helping Martin Room-Wilson move a boat he had bought online and on a whim for £5,200.
The pair had already been drinking together at Gomersal Cricket Club before they stopped off at an off-licence on the way to the boat to buy whisky, vodka and 12 beers.
Giving evidence Mr Room-Wilson, who described himself as a strong swimmer and his uncle as a big drinker, said they had decided "to make an occasion" of moving the boat, which was near The Ship Inn, to avoid paying mooring fees.
"Did you think you were going on a booze cruise?" asked Mr Fleming and Mr Room-Wilson replied "Yes."
Brian Best, who was managing director of a nearby marina, also spotted the pair on October 18 last year before the incident and described it to the hearing as "the worst boat handling I have ever seen."
The men had been struggling to move the boat because the reverse gear was not working. Mr Best said he watched the boat plough into weeds on both sides of the canal with such speed the front of the boat lifted out of the water. "I spoke to them but the younger man said 'it's alright mate, we've broken down. We're okay fella, walk away' and that's what I did."
The inquest heard how the pair had set off towards Ravensthorpe, but got into difficulties again when Mr Newby fell asleep at the steering wheel while his nephew was winding open a second lock.
The boat, which had no life jackets, drifted off and Mr Room-Wilson had to jump into the canal to get back onboard and wake his uncle up. A short time later as he was rolling a cigarette, he heard a big splash and turned to see Mr Newby had fallen out of his seat into the water. "He was laughing and doing the doggy-paddle," he said.
Mr Room-Wilson tried to pull his uncle, who was getting tired but still laughing, up onto the boat and jumped in to help, eventually having to give up and run to a road flagging down a taxi driver which triggered a helicopter and boat search.
Mr Newby was retrieved from the water but was pronounced dead at Pinderfields Hospital. His death was an accident due to drowning with alcohol being a contributing factor affecting his balance, co-ordination and judgement as well as making him more vulnerable to the cold water, said Mr Fleming.
"A strong message should go out that everything that was done was exactly what should not be done on boats. Alcohol and boats are a dangerous combination. The two should not be mixed on these ridiculously sounding booze-cruises. What seems a good idea when you are drunk, turns out to be a bad thing when you are sobre."
Mr Fleming plans to write to the Canal & River Trust asking for a review of safety at Lock 19 which did not have a life-ring.