Accidental verdict on marina deaths

TWO sailors drowned in a marina following a celebration dinner to mark the opening of the yachting season, an inquest heard.Captain Victor Sutton, who worked for the Harwich Haven Authority for more than 20 years, was found dead at Levington Marina on the River Orwell on March 28.

TWO sailors drowned in a marina following a celebration dinner to mark the opening of the yachting season, an inquest heard.

Captain Victor Sutton, who worked for the Harwich Haven Authority for more than 20 years, was found dead at Levington Marina on the River Orwell on March 28.

His friend, boat owner Charles Pennington, 73, from Norwich, was also recovered from the water.

The men had attended a dinner to mark the opening of Haven Ports Yacht Club's season along with fellow sailing friend Bernard Conway, with all three making arrangements to sleep overnight aboard Mr Penninton's yacht, Genoa.


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When they returned to the yacht after the event, Mr Conway left the two men chatting on deck while he got into bed. However, he awoke the following morning to discover the pair missing.

Mr Pennington's body was found floating near the Genoa. Emergency services were called and launched a search of the area and Mr Sutton's body was recovered 30 minutes later.

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Police ruled out any suspicious circumstances and a post mortem examination revealed both men had died of drowning, although a contributory cause of death for Mr Sutton was given as heart disease.

There was also a small red area below Mr Pennington's knee, which could have indicated Mr Sutton had fallen first leading his friend to kneel on the edge of the pontoon to try and rescue him.

A toxicology report found Mr Sutton, from Felixstowe, had a blood alcohol limit of 249miligrams of alcohol in 100mililitres of blood while Mr Pennington had a level of 287milligrams – the legal drink drive limit is 80.

An inquest jury at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday returned a verdict of accidental death on both men.

Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean said: "We do not have evidence of what took place at that time.

"Clearly the risk of co-ordination is a significant consideration given the levels of alcohol."

Giving evidence, Mr Conway, 72, from Norwich, said he been friends with medical physicist Mr Pennington, known as Max, for 35 years and Mr Sutton, a retired chief executive, 10 years.

He said the men had arranged to stay overnight on Mr Pennington's yacht and the group had met up at 6pm before attending the dinner.

During the evening, Mr Conway said the men each had a pint of beer and shared two bottles of wine but were not drunk.

When they arrived back at the yacht, the two men stayed up chatting while Mr Conway went to his bunk to go to sleep.

He woke up next morning to find Mr Pennington's bunk empty and Mr Sutton also missing, and went outside to look for them.

With no sign of his friends, Mr Conway said he called the police.

"As I turned right off the pontoon I looked down in the water and saw some clothing close to the bow of the Genoa. As I pulled I knew the person was my friend Max," he told the inquest.

Mr Conway was not able to lift his friend out of the water and called for help.

Other people in the marina lifted him out of the water and tried to resuscitate him however he was already dead. Mr Sutton's body was discovered later.

Martin Goodchild was onboard the Wild Cat yacht on March 27 and told the inquest he had heard a noise in the night.

"I heard a sound, I believed it was someone swimming in the water. I called out a few times but we had no indication that anyone was in difficulty," he said.

Det Sgt Darren Skuse, who visited the scene, told the inquest there was nothing suspicious relating to the two bodies being found in the water.

During the examination of the area, police found two glasses and a special presentation bottle of whiskey.

Mr Skuse said either of the men could easily have fallen into the water with the other possibly trying to help the other out.

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