Inquest jury to look at coasteering safety after Purbeck death

A jury will be asked to thoroughly examine safety rules surrounding the sport of coasteering as part of an inquest into the death of a man who drowned in the sea off Dancing Ledge near Swanage in Dorset in 2019.

Two weeks have been set aside in September 2023 to hear full details of the incident when Iain Farrell, aged 49 from Dorney in Buckinghamshire near Windsor, died after getting into difficulty in the sea while taking part in an organised adventure activity.

Dancing Ledge
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Safety issues concerning adventure sports at Dancing Ledge will be scrutinised

Pulled unconscious from the sea

At a pre inquest review on Thursday 2nd March 2023, Bournemouth Coroner’s Court heard that Iain Farrell died while taking part in the relatively new sport of coasteering – climbing and swimming around a rocky part of a coast – near Dancing Ledge, on Sunday 26th May 2019, with his two sons.

He was pulled unconscious from the sea and a number of other people had to be recovered from the water by the coastguard and the RNLI during the incident, which happened during an activity day run by Swanage based adventure company Land and Wave.

The Civic Centre at Bournemouth, where the inquest will be held

Video evidence expected to be shown

Video evidence filmed from a body camera on one of the emergency responders is expected to be shown to the jury as well as a series of still photographs taken from a rescue boat which went to the aid of 11 people who had jumped into the sea from rock ledges.

The video footage, filmed from the top of the cliffs at Dancing Ledge, shows those in difficulty in the water as well as CPR being administered to Iain Farrell.

No criminal charges

Dorset Police have already said that there will be no prosecution in connection with the incident, following a detailed investigation working jointly with Dorset Council.

It was concluded that the conduct of any individual or organisation did not reach the threshold for bringing criminal charges.

Dancing Ledge
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A view along the Jurassic Coast from Dancing Ledge

Public health and safety concerns

A jury will be sworn in on Monday 18th September 2023 to hear the inquest evidence because of the public health and safety elements and concerns into a commercial activity which regularly takes place along the Jurassic Coast and elsewhere.

They will be asked to listen to all the evidence and then decide not only where, when and how Iain Farrell died, but also to make known any findings into the safety of the sport and the regulations which govern it.

Dorset Coroner Brendan Allen ruled that a jury should hear the full inquest because the death was an accident that was required to be notified to the authorities as a matter of law.

The coroner said Iain Farrell’s family, the oudoor company Land and Wave and its representative, Charles Ridley, as well as Dorset Council, will be given interested person status at the full hearing.

Following a request from Iain Farrell’s brother Matthew, appearing on a video link from New Zealand, the National Coasteering Charter which is responsible for the sport’s safety practices will also be given interested person status.

Dancing Ledge
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Dancing Ledge is a popular place for coasteering

A chance to prevent further deaths

Dorset Coroner Brendan Allen said:

“The adequacy of the national guidelines should be included in the scope of the inquest.

“There has been relatively little scrutiny given to the commercial coasteering world to decide whether safety guidance is good enough to prevent risks.

“It does need to be properly scrutinised and this is an opportunity to do that. If there is a chance of making changes to prevent further deaths in the future, we must take it.”

He previously ruled that the scope of the inquest will look at what safety briefings were given on the day, how the groups of participants were chosen, and how the instructor adapted to the conditions of the day.

The jury will also be required to look at procedures used by Land and Wave, as well as Iain Farrell’s own health and swimming ability.

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