The BC Coroner has concluded that the drowning of a 64-year-old Nelson man on Kootenay River in August was accidental, but alcohol was a contributing factor.
On the afternoon of August 4, 2012, Donald Charles Morris arrived with a group of friends to Coyote Point on Kootenay River west of Nelson.
The coroner’s report (made public on Wednesday) states that most of the group went swimming at the popular summer area just upstream from the Taghum Bridge at approximately 3:45 p.m. While the group swam, the report states that Morris remained seated on a rock.
The group returned to shore and “minutes later Mr. Morris decided to go swimming by diving into the water from a large rock at the height of approximately one metre above the water.” Morris was observed diving into the water in “belly flop” dive style, resurfaced and then appeared to be floating or swimming in a breaststroke.
Moments later Morris was observed swimming around a rock and out of sight of the group. The report states that Morris did not get out of the water.
The group became concerned that Morris had not been seen for approximately five minutes and his personal effects were still on the rock where he had been previously seen before diving into the water. The group searched for Morris along the beach line, but he could not be located. A member of the group then called 9-1-1.
A Nelson Search and Rescue team recovered Morris from a water depth of approximately four meters and was found unresponsive. He was immediately transported by the BC Ambulance Service to Kootenay Lake Hospital. The ambulance crew initiated resuscitation efforts at the scene and continued them en route to the hospital.
“Despite these efforts Mr. Morris was pronounced deceased by emergency personnel at Kootenay Lake Hospital,” Coroner Diana Gonzalez writes in her report.
In her investigative findings, the coroner states that Morris “did not exhibit signs of despondency and had not indicated that he may have wished to harm himself.” The investigation also rules out foul play.
The ambient temperature in the area that afternoon was 31 C. There is no mention of the water temperature at the time of the drowning.
“A post mortem examination revealed that the cause of death was consistent with prolonged immersion in fresh water or drowning,” Gonzalez writes. “Toxicological analysis detected a blood level of ethyl alcohol of 0.14%. This level is consistent with moderate level of intoxication with ethyl alcohol. The analysis also detected therapeutic levels of prescription medication.”
The coroner makes no recommendations based on her report.