New dad drowned in ‘silly’ canoe accident 14 weeks after ‘miracle’ baby boy born

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The death of a new dad who drowned when his canoe overturned has been described by his devastated fiancée as a “silly, tragic accident”.

On July 18 last year, Mark Hill made a fateful “last-minute” decision to take his canoe to Amberswood Lake in Wigan.

The 40-year-old had become a father only 14 weeks earlier, having wanted a child for the past 20 years.

Following two failed rounds of IVF, Mark’s fiancée Lisa Veasey conceived naturally and gave birth to “miracle baby” Corey.

But Mark had been “between three and four times” over the drink drive limit on the day he took his canoe out and he got into difficulty, Bolton Coroner’s Court heard.

Timothy Brennand, the senior coroner for Manchester West, told the court that a couple had been walking past the lake at around 3.40pm and spotted Mark struggling in the water.

A woman rang the emergency services, while her boyfriend waded in and tried to shout to Mark and catch his attention.

Just before firefighters arrived, Mark tragically went under the water and didn’t resurface.

It took emergency services until 9.10pm to retrieve Mark’s body from the lake – around 40 metres away from the shore.

A statement from Mark’s GP revealed that in 2015, he had been to the doctors to raise concerns about his level of alcohol consumption. His doctor also said that Mark took Co-codamol to treat back pain.

Mark’s fiancée Ms Veasey had previously told the court he was a “social drinker” but had stopped drinking when she became pregnant in an act of solidarity.

Talking about the day of his death, she said: “He did not have a drink that day as far as I could see.

“He had bought a canoe about two years ago but never used it because I didn’t want him to.

“I think he took it out that day because he knew I was going out. I think he thought he could get out and use it, without me knowing, before I got home.”

On the moment she found out he had died, she added: “I was in shock. This was a silly, tragic accident.

“We were all riddled with guilt. I thought what if I hadn’t gone shopping that day.

“He was fine that morning and we’d had a lovely family evening the night before.

“He was the proudest dad ever and he loved Corey and me so much. He was excited for the future and we were planning our first family holiday.

“It’s been extraordinarily difficult.”

A post-mortem examination revealed that the medical cause of death was drowning and a toxicology report showed a considerable amount of alcohol in Mark’s system, along with Codeine and Paracetamol, consistent with therapeutic use.

Mr Brennand said: “At some time from approximately 3.40pm on July 18, 2020, while heavily intoxicated the deceased went canoeing on a lake within the Amberswood Nature Reserve in Platt Bridge, Wigan.

“The canoe became overturned in circumstances where the precise events of the capsize were not witnessed but can be presumed to be as consequence of alcohol induced impairment and confusion.”

Recording a conclusion of accidental death, Mr Brennand added: “As far as his partner in life goes, she was of the view that he was not drinking.

“He’s been left to his own devices that day and he seems to have acquired for himself a significant quantity of alcohol and decided to take the canoe.

“This is a young man who had everything to live for. There is no note of intent. Nothing to suggest that he was contemplating self-harm.

“In her statement, [Mark’s fiancee Lisa] described this as a ‘silly, tragic accident’ and that’s a clear and concise a summary of events based on the evidence.”

Following the hearing, Mark’s sister Hannah said: “Mark was a very much loved member of our family and is and will always be sadly missed by all of us.

“Our hearts are still broken, mum isn’t coping and dad is just about holding up for her. Lisa is having a hard time too, it’s so hard on everyone.

“He made some silly mistakes in his life but this time he has paid for it and so is everyone else who knows and loves him.

“I just hope he can now rest peacefully now we have answers. It’s bittersweet in a way.”