Accidental death conclusion at tragic teen’s inquest

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Family and friends have had to revisit the horrifying moment a popular and caring teenager drowned in a Foulridge reservoir.

The life of James Goodship (17) was tragically cut short on June 22nd, after he and a group of friends got into difficulty at Lake Burwain.

At his inquest today, East Lancashire Coroner Richard Taylor was told how James, “a fun loving lad, full of adventure and full of surprises”, had dived into the freezing water when a raft the group had got onto began moving towards the centre of the reservoir.

His friend Keaton (16), who had slid himself into the water before James, told Burnley Magistrates’ Court: “We tried to paddle with our hands, but it didn’t work. The current was quite strong, and was forcing us the opposite way.

“At first I wasn’t scared or worried, but I thought we needed to get the raft back before we got into trouble for taking it.

“After an hour, we decided we had to do something, and decided to swim to the shore to get help.

“I spoke to James and he said he was going to swim as well. I sat down on the edge of the raft, and slipped into the water... and James came in after me.

“I have never felt anything like that [the water]. It froze your body and I couldn’t move - it was horrible.”

Keaton went on to describe how he started to swim back to the raft due to his own exhaustion. He could hear James but couldn’t see him, but when he was helped back onto the raft by his friend Celia he could hear the others shouting “Go on, you’re nearly there.”

He added: “I couldn’t see where he was but I did hear him shout for help at one point. I knew when he shouted for help that he was in trouble, because I knew how he felt. Without Celia coming in to help me, I would have been the same.

“The others saw him go under, and when he didn’t come back up everyone started crying.”

The court also heard a statement from Mr Paul Bleasdale, whose property overlooks the reservoir, and who called the emergency services to the scene. He recalled how the initial laughter he had heard from the friends suddenly turned to shouting and how two girls, who had decided not to join the others on the raft, were left hysterical as James shouted “I can’t do it.”

Tributes were also read out by James’ uncle Paul, and speaking outside the court following the inquest James’ mum and dad Mel and Pete Goodship vowed to continue in their mission to remind youngsters of the dangers of open water. Mr Taylor closed the inquest by giving a conclusion of accidental death.

Paul, who also spoke at James’ funeral, which was attended by hundreds of people wearing bright pink socks, said: “He loved his family, he loved his friends, he loved life. He always had a smile on his face, and he managed to put a smile on most other people’s faces as well.

“Certainly on this earth he was no angel, but he was a very caring and fun-loving boy.”

Duke Street resident Pete, who yesterday had James’ Colne Park High School portrait etched onto his skin, added: “Thank you to everybody for their support. Everyone has been amazing, especially James’ friends.

“We have been out around the local reservoirs giving out leaflets with the fire service and police.”

And civil servant Mel added: “We don’t want any other family to go through what we’ve been through. This was a tragic accident - one of the most important things to do now is to educate children on the dangers of open water.”

A James Goodship memorial fund has been set up, and numerous fund-raisers have been being held throughout the town. It is hoped money raised can pay for a memorial garden and life preservers to put around the Foulridge reservoir.