Death of man who fell into barge was accidental, says inquest

The inquest into the death was held at Suffolk Coroner's Court in Ipswich Picture: ARCHANT

An inquest was heard into the death of Joe Stiff - Credit: Archant

The death of a "happy" Ipswich man who fell into a barge was accidental, an inquest has concluded.

Joe Stiff, 37, an engineer, was at the jetty at Pin Mill with a friend in December 2020 when the accident took place. 

The inquest heard that Mr Stiff had been drinking in the day and was last seen by his friend Richard Nicholson at around 3.15pm. 

Mr Nicholson left the area for an hour, leaving his motorbike propped up near his boat. 

When he returned, he noticed the motorbike had gone and eventually found it wedged between the jetty and another boat. 

He found Mr Stiff unconscious at the bottom of a nearby barge, having fallen approximately 20ft to the bottom of the boat. 

Mr Nicholson went to his friend's aid and carried out CPR, while also calling the emergency services. 

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Paramedics and the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance arrived on the scene where they took over the CPR. 

Mr Stiff had several cardiac arrests while being treated by medics at the scene. 

The decision was made to take him to Ipswich Hospital for further treatment rather than Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, because of the distance. 

After arriving at Ipswich Hospital, it was deemed his likelihood of survival was not good and his death was confirmed at 7.25pm. 

A post mortem examination found he had suffered severe head injuries as a result of the fall. He also found a high level of alcohol in his blood.  

Mr Stiff was described at the inquest as a lovely, happy person who made people smile and adored his family.  

The inquest heard that he had struggled academically but enjoyed working with boats and helped his dad down at Pin Mill. 

Outside of this work, he enjoyed Formula One where his heroes were Lewis Hamilton, Niki Lauda and Ayrton Senna. 

Senior coroner for Suffolk, Nigel Parsley, told the inquest that emergency services had done everything they possibly could.

"At no point did anyone give up on Joe," said Mr Parsley. 

He concluded that Mr Stiff had died as a result of a head injury after falling from a height. 

Mr Parsley said there was only one possible way to categorise Mr Stiff's death - accidental.