Mystery surrounds river death of teenager

mystery surrounds the death of a teenager who drowned in a river on the Nelson/Brierfield boundary.

Thursday, 18th November 2010, 3:19 pm

The body of Oliver Hefford (19), of Craven Street, Brierfield, was found in Pendle Water, at the bottom of Lomeshayre Industrial Estate, in July.

An inquest heard how an elderly couple, who had been sitting near to where the incident took place that afternoon, had tried to rescue him after hearing a splash.

Mr Ken Smith recalled how the young lad had walked past them shortly before the tragic events unfolded asking if they had seen a white dog.

“He walked past us to our right, asked us about the dog and then walked back past us shortly after. When we heard the splash I walked around the corner, looked into the river but couldn’t see anything. I thought it might have been a rock or something. As I was walking back I then heard someone shouting. I looked back and I could see him waving his arms in the water near to where there is a girder.

“I held my cane out for him to try and grab but it was too short. He then went under and that was when I called the emergency services.”

Nelson firefighters were supported in the search by a team from Preston while The North West Air Ambulance also attended. The body was discovered close to the bank near some trees.

Pathologist Zuhair Twaij, who conducted the post-mortem examination, said he found a high level of amphetamine in Mr Hefford’s system, an amount which he felt could be considered fatal.

Mr Hefford, whose family lives in Burnley, was a keen fisherman and a regular visitor to the river bank.

His sister Katie Hefford thanked the couple for trying their best to save her brother’s life and said family and friends were still coming to terms with the tragedy.

“We just want to know what happened,” she said. “We want to know how he ended up in the water. He doesn’t have a dog so it doesn’t make any sense.”

Recording an open verdict East Lancashire Coroner Mr Richard Taylor said: “Although the amphetamine level was high he may well have had a significant tolerance to it.

“The evidence doesn’t point in one direction and so I have no choice but to record an open verdict.”