Inquest Says Bromsgrove Student Drowned While "More Than Likely" Trying To Help Someone
22 January 2019, 13:03 | Updated: 22 January 2019, 13:04
A university student who drowned in the River Severn was "more than likely" trying to assist somebody who cried for help, an inquest has heard.
Thomas Jones's body was found floating in the river on September 28 last year after going missing nine days earlier.
Coroner Geraint Williams appeared to become upset as he looked at a photograph of the 18-year-old before recording an open conclusion on Tuesday.
CCTV cameras in the area where Mr Jones was last seen picked up a cry for help moments before he apparently slipped and fell down an embankment in Worcester at around 3.50am.
Police officer Chris Buffery, who gave evidence at the inquest, said he could not be certain but it was likely the University of Worcester student had either gone to help another person or had gone to the river to urinate.
But the coroner said he was "exactly the sort of person who would have seen if he could have helped".
The 30-minute hearing at Worcestershire Coroner's Court heard West Bromwich Albion fan Mr Jones had an alcohol level in his system which would have meant he was a little over twice the drink-drive limit.
A toxicology report also found a small trace of a chemical in his body which resembled that of cocaine, although a toxicologist said he was more than likely to have passively inhaled the drug.
The inquest heard there was no suggestion of any third party involvement in Mr Jones's death.
Recording his verdict, the coroner told family members: "I have been doing this job for 30 years and it still gets to me.
"We do not have any sufficient evidence to say that this was an accident or indeed anything else.
"From what I said I think it is likely your boy heard someone calling for help and went to see if he could help.
"In your son's case, with great regret, I reach an open conclusion."
Addressing the alcohol and cocaine levels in Mr Jones's body, Mr Williams said: "He somehow slipped and fell, and the amount of alcohol would have debilitated him to an extent.
"It is clear that the cocaine would not have played any part whatsoever.
"It seems likely to me that he was not someone who smoked cocaine."
Addressing Mr Jones's family at the end of the inquest, Mr Williams said: "I am older than you are, please do not think this impertinent - this will never go away for you.
"But it gets easier to live with and that is all we can hope for. Please accept my condolences."
Speaking after the inquest, Mr Jones's father Ian said on behalf of himself and the student's mother Vicki: "We accept the findings and subsequent conclusion following today's hearing.
"The past few months have been unbearably difficult to come to terms with life without Tom and we very much appreciate the overwhelming support and respect from all involved, including the media, during this time and trust this will remain whilst we continue to rebuild our lives and work around the devastating loss of Tom."