Authorities issue update on plans to prevent canal drownings after series of tragic Wigan deaths
Authorities have told a coroner they are determined to make Wigan’s water ways safer after the tragic deaths of several young men.
In February, Coroner Timothy Brennand wrote to Wigan Council and the Canals and Rivers Trust, calling for “an inter-agency approach” to reducing the risk of death on Wigan’s canals.
His decision came following the inquest of Michael Greenall, a 24-year-old who drowned on September 18 2020 following a night out with friends.
The 27-year-old dad-of-two became “incapacitated, confused, and disorientated” after drinking around seven pints and taking diazepam tablets - which he was using to treat sleeping problems - before falling into the water while making his way to a friend’s house.
There were no barriers or lighting on the path, and the area where he died was in total darkness at the time of his death, which was sometime between 10pm and midnight.
Mr Greenall’s death occurred just a month after the passing of Matthew Dutton, who was found in the same stretch of water after going missing at the end of a night out.
Then, in March, the body of 47-year-old Darren Hunt was also recovered from the Leeds-Liverpool Canal near Leigh Street. Mr Hunt had been reported missing several days earlier.
At Mr Greenall’s inquest in February, Mr Brennand said: “It is quite plain to me that this is a case that has a resonance with a second case that this court has dealt with.
“Before me on February 2, 2021, I conducted an inquest touching the death of Matthew John Dutton.
“In relation to Mr Dutton’s death, he was recovered by an underwater search team at lock 79 of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in Rose Bridge, in Ince.”
The coroner went on: “What I can do... is to write to the Canal and River Trust and Wigan Council to make clear that I have matters of concern in relation to the issue of the fact that within the period of canal between lock 77 and lock 79, this is the second tragedy to have befallen local residents in that area. Open stretches of water can kill.”
Mr Brennand added: “I will write with immediate effect to the two agencies that I have indicated, the council and the canals trust, and express my own concerns in relation to the issue of water safety and will ask for a response within three months, so that I can understand exactly has happened and what has come of the inter-agency approach.”
A petition had also been launched by the family of Mr Greenall, calling for more lighting and barriers to be installed on the pathway next to the deadly stretch of water.
Now, the town hall has outlined its response to the fatalities, in a letter response which was accepted by the coroner.
Leader of Wigan Council and Ince ward councillor, David Molynuex said: “I was saddened to hear of the deaths of the men who fell in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, not just as leader of the council but as ward member for the area – a community close to my heart.
“Over the last few months, the council and wider partner organisations have met to discuss awareness raising activities and have established an ‘Wigan Open Water Safety’ partnership, which prioritises this issue further.
“I am determined to work with council officers and all relevant partners on an ongoing basis and remain committed to improving the safety of open water bodies in the borough.”
Daniel Greenhalgh, regional director at Canal and River Trust, said: “We were greatly saddened by the tragic deaths of Matthew Dutton and Mikey Greenall last year and our thoughts remain with their family and friends. Safety is our priority on this busy and popular canal and we are assisting the Coroner in any way we can.
“Since the fatalities the Trust and Wigan Council have established a Water Safety Partnership with other key stakeholders, including Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue.
“Together we have been discussing ways to improve safety and we are also working on joint campaigns to help raise awareness of the importance of being safe around water.”
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