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Santa Clara drowning - Richard Chapelow inquest hears details of banana boat tragedy

santaclaradamThe inquest into the death of Richard Chapelow, an accounts manager from Chiswich in London, heard that he died on first day of his holiday at John Hunt's Alentejo estate bordering the Santa Clara reservoir in the lower Alentejo.

Chapelow was thrown from banana boat when it crossed a wake, and most likely drowned, although his body was decomposed when found three weeks later and the actual cause of death could not be determined.

Richard Chapelow was friends with Harry Hunt, the son of the founder of the Foxtons estate agency and was on holiday with friends at the family's estate.

An inquest at West London Coroner's Court heard how 29-year-old Richard Chapelow arrived at the property and died later that day, August 20th, 2018.

Chapelow's parents heard accounts of how their son's friends repeatedly dived into the lake in attempts to find the Richard after he failed to surface after the accident. The body was found by an estate manager three weeks after the accident.

Mr Chapelow from Chiswick, London, decided to ride the banana boat with Harry Hunt and two friends at the Santa Clara reservoir, being towed by the Master Crafter boat.

The boat's was being driven at just 10 miles per hour when the banana boat hit a wake, tilted to the left and Chapelow and his three friends were thrown into the water.

Richard Chapelow did not resurface and firefighters later spend over two weeks diving in the reservoir to try and locate the body which was found on September 8th, after the diving teams had abandoned their search.

Senior West London Coroner, Chinyere Inyama, concluded that Richard Chapelow's death was accidental, adding that it was a "very tragic death abroad."

Richard Chapelow's friends described their desperate attempts to find him, in emails read out in court.

Cameron Maynard, who also was thrown into the water, removed his buoyancy jacket repeatedly diving in a 'desperate' bid to save their friend, as did Harry Hunt, the inquest heard.

Maynard said, "Harry shouted from the water 'where is Richard? Where the f*** is Richard?

"I heard Emma from the boat say 'Richard, Richard. Where the hell is Richard?

"I took off my buoyancy vest and I swam down, I looked downwards."

After two metres or so, Mr Maynard said the area had looked sandy, so he came back up for air, when he then heard shouting from the boat.

'I could not see anything', he added.

Mr Mayanard dived into the water four times, but said he could not see anything that he could link to Mr Chapelow.

Harry and his sister Emma Hunt, dived into the water while friends and family rode out on jet skis. Harry said: 'I got onto the boat and my sister Emma said she saw bubbles so we both dived in.'

Emma Hunt said: 'The boat went forward pulling the banana for 20 to 30 seconds. The boat tipped to the left and we went in the water. Cameron took his jacket off and dove down. I saw some bubbles off to one side. Harry dove down, but could not see anything.'

Harry joined on a jet ski for another 45 minutes until emergency services arrived, the inquest heard.

He said: 'The jet skis we were on ran out of fuel so we went back. We continued to look for another 45 minutes and emergency services arrived.

Mr Chapelow's mother and father, Jacqueline and Michael, comforted one another as the emails were read to the inquest.

A Portuguese police report stated that there 'didn't seem to be any third parties involved' and that it was a 'non-suspicious' death.

'When the body of Mr Chapelow was brought back into this country, nothing of any note was found of toxicology. There is nothing in the GP report of note relevant to the inquiry,' the senior coroner added, and when Mr Chapelow's body was found, it was in 'a state of decomposition.'

He said doctors could not be certain of the cause of death but that the 'possible cause could be one of drowning.'

The Portuguese report confirmed Mr Chapelow's death was 'more likely to be caused by drowning' while UK reports said the cause of death 'was ascertained.'

'Richard Chapelow died an accidental death, an accidental death be what will be recorded in our record.' Turning to Mr Chapelow's parents, Senior West London Coroner Chinyere Inyama added: 'Every death is tragic to the people involved. I just hope the inquest helps you draw some sort of line and helps you come to terms with it.'

Jon Hunt sold Foxtons shortly before the property crash in 2007 for £360million, a deal the Financial Times described as the ‘sale of the century.'

 

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Comments  

+8 #1 Jack Reacher 2019-04-05 13:40
It would appear that everyone else was wearing lifejackets but the victim..

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