Death plunge was accident

Phil Ashton, who fell to his death last week while climbing in the Lakes, with his son Thomas. Beth
Phil Ashton, who fell to his death last week while climbing in the Lakes, with his son Thomas. Beth
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A WIGAN man who died after plunging from a Cumbrian mountain range died accidentally, an inquest heard.

Just three days after the death of a Preston man in the same circumstances, Philip Ashton, who was an experienced fell walker, died after falling from Swirral Edge, Helvellyn, in Cumbria.

The 43-year-old Haydock man was with a party of family and friends, who were well equipped for the difficult weather conditions, when tragedy struck in December last year.

The inquest, held at Kendal County Hall, heard that Mr Ashton was among a party of eight who set out from Patterdale to walk up Helvellyn on December 30.

One of his brothers, Steven Ashton, said the group had done a similar walk before and knew the route they were taking.

After walking up Striding Edge to the summit, they descended on to Swirral Edge.

Mr Ashton said the ground was covered in snow but the path was clearly visible and had been used by other walkers.

His brother, who was a father-of-one, left the group briefly because he needed to relieve himself, but did not reappear.

He saw the snow move and thought his brother had slipped, but could not see where he had fallen, eventually he found his brother lying unconscious but still breathing after falling about 120 metres.

It is not known exactly how he came to fall as nobody saw the incident.

Another brother, Mark, called for help but an air ambulance was unable to reach them because of the bad weather conditions. Mr Ashton was eventually airlifted by a Sea King helicopter from RAF Boulmer and was taken to the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, where he died.

A post mortem examination showed the cause of death was a head injury.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Ian Smith said it appeared that Mr Ashton had stood on what he thought was firm ground, but in fact was unstable.

He said: “It’s possible that he lost his footing.

“It’s more likely he trusted a piece of ground that was not ground but a cornice.

“This is a tragic accident to a young man in the prime of his life, who was going out with his family, brothers and friends on a fell walk in what were challenging conditions.”