A happy young couple who drowned in the raging torrent of a flooded river after going to wash their dogs died accidentally, a coroner ruled today.
Recently engaged Alicia Williams and David Platt, both 25, had taken their five pets close to a weir on the River Clywedog, near their home in Wrexham, North Wales, on September 26 last year.
Torrential rain had turned the river into a raging torrent, the inquest into their deaths held at Mold Magistrates’ Court heard.
They were last seen ‘laughing and joking’ and washing the dogs on the edge of the water around 4.30pm.
The body of Miss Williams, a stable-hand who had a three-year-old daughter, Ella, was found downstream from a half-empty shampoo bottle at around 5pm later that day.
The body of Mr Platt, a carpenter who intended to turn professional as a boxer was found hours later partly submerged and trapped against a fallen tree in the river.
No drugs or alcohol was found in either bodies, both were fit and healthy and there were no abnormalities to suggest either could have fainted or passed out and fell in the river.
A pathologist concluded Miss Williams died from ‘dry drowning’ – only the top half of her respiratory system was filled with water and she died quickly.
Mr Platt’s lungs were filled with water. Recording her verdict, Nicola Jones, deputy coroner for North Wales, ruled both deaths an accident. Ms Jones said: ‘There’s no evidence as to how Alicia and David have entered the water.
‘There’s no evidence as to why, and for us to guess would be mere speculation. They were a happy-go-lucky couple prior to this incident.
‘The most likely cause is that they have fallen into this river or gone into this river and the river has taken over and they have drowned in that raging, powerful torrent.
‘They have entered that water and they have not stood a chance. They had no idea what a dangerous position they were in by being that close to the weir.’
Mr Platt’s mother, Sharon Platt, said earlier that day her son told her he intended to go with Miss Wiliams with their dogs, two jack russells, two retrievers and a whippet to wash them by the river.
Sian Edwards, in a statement to the hearing, said she was walking her own three dogs in the area and could hear a ‘loud roar’ from the water so decided it was too dangerous to let her own dogs off the lead.
Ms Edwards said the river had broken its banks in parts.
She saw the young couple on the edge of the weir adding: ‘I could see them talking and laughing with each other, washing and rubbing the dogs.’
John Holland, another witness said he saw two of the dogs ‘appear to struggle’ against the ‘very strong’ current while in the river before managing to get out.
John Davies, from Oswestry, was alerted by another dog-walker to something in the water and spotted the body of Miss Williams but there were no signs of life.
‘The river was very, very fast, the power coming from that would be immense,’ he told the inquest.
Teacher David Humphrieys took his own dog to the same area when he saw four of the couple’s dogs and thought it ‘strange’ the owners were not with them.
He also saw a half empty bottle of shampoo on the ground before being alerted to Miss Williams’ body in the water on a shingle bank a few hundred yards downstream.
‘I could see it was a female with long hair and I had no doubt she was dead,’ he said.
The coroner asked him: ‘Had someone fallen into the river that day, what chance would they have of surviving?’
‘None,’ he replied.
The coroner continued: ‘A fit young man, capable swimmer?’
‘No,’ Mr Humphrieys replied, ‘No chance.’
The inquest heard that around an hour after Miss Williams’s body was found her family alerted police that she had gone to the river with Mr Platt.
But it was only at 9.09pm that the North East Wales Search and Rescue Team was called, finding his body in the river just after midnight.
But the coroner said a police helicopter had been used in the search with heat-seeking equipment but there were no signs of life.
And Mr Platt’s body did not have injuries to his arms and hands normally associated with someone clinging to a rock or branch in the hope help is on its way.
‘There were no injuries of that nature,’ Ms Jones added.
‘I’m satisfied that he died quite quickly after entering the water,’ she added.
‘It is scant consolation that the delay in recovering David would not have saved him in my opinion.’
The coroner added she would be writing to the National Trust, which owns the land near the river, the local council and the government authorities to take steps to improve signs warning of dangers near the riverbank.