Former rugby player died trying to save his kids who were swept out to sea at Haven Holidays park

David Fell, 55, was staying at Haven’s Reighton Sands holiday park with his family when he went into the ocean to rescue his son and daughter and went into cardiac arrest

David Fell dies at sea trying to rescue his children
David Fell dies at sea trying to rescue his children

A former professional rugby player has died of a heart attack after plunging into the sea to rescue his two children after they became entangled in flowing water, an inquest has heard.

David Fell, 55, was staying at Haven’s Reighton Sands holiday park with his family when he ran into trouble in the waters off the Yorkshire coast last year and his body was later recovered by lifeboat RNLI.

North Yorkshire assistant coroner Oliver Longstaff ruled he did not drown due to a lack of fluid in his lungs but it was more likely he suffered a cardiac arrest due to the stress of the situation – although this cannot be proven. convincingly demonstrated.

Mr Fell, who was a professional rugby player with Salford and Rochdale in the 1980s, was swept up in the currents and dragged into the ocean with his two teenage children, both of whom were rescued go to another sea to save.

He didn’t get into the water at first but stepped in when his son and daughter were having a hard time – his daughter was seriously injured and had a ruptured abdominal aorta.

David was at Haven’s Reighton Sands holiday park when he went into cardiac arrest at sea


Richard Sowersby / REX / Shutterstock)

The RNLI lifeboat eventually recovered Mr. Fell’s body.

An autopsy initially determined David died of immersion, but pathologist David Scoones revised his stance after the inquest said he was not seen to struggle, call for help and had not yet been found. never really get to your child or the rescuers.

He presented evidence that David had a severe narrowing of a coronary artery that put him at high risk of cardiac arrest.

Recording a narrative conclusion, Mr. Longstaff said: “This is a tragedy for Fell’s family. The members of the public who rescued his child have shown considerable courage and heroism.

“This incident is not anyone’s fault in the legal sense and there is no breach of obligation to David Fell.

“I found it important that none of the witnesses brought Mr. Fell to the scene of the rescue. He was a strong swimmer and family man and I couldn’t believe he was. He wouldn’t want to be involved in rescuing his children.

David Fell played for Orrell in a career that has also seen him join Rochdale and Salford


Orrell RUFC)

“No one heard him cry for help. The next time someone saw him, he was motionless.

“Dr Scoones gave absolutely no reason for drowning as the cause of death. I asked him to review his evidence based on witness testimony and it appeared that the stress of being in the water had may increase the risk of cardiac arrest due to underlying heart disease.

“The state of emergency involving his children has exacerbated this tension.

“It was an understandable assumption made on the day he drowned, but this has not been proven and medical evidence is certain that he did not drown. The cause of death is obvious, but from a point of view. In my opinion, this is not appropriate for the circumstances.”

The inquest, held in Northallerton, heard that the RNLI and Scarborough Council had decided not to set up a rescue service at Reighton Gap near Filey despite being warned of high tides.

RNLI’s end-of-season water safety report for 2019 includes a warning that shifting sandbars are increasing the severity and frequency of tides on the coast, leaving them to respond to two accidents. ‘nearly drowned’ that summer. heard.

The inquest was told that the RNLI and council jointly decided in 2019 that despite a higher risk of runoff, extending protection from Filey Bay to the regular Reighton Gap was ‘unrealistic’ ‘ due to accessibility issues.

Instead, lifeguards stationed full-time at Filey Bay will continue to patrol the 9-kilometer stretch of beach including Gap in a vehicle and additional signs have been installed along the road. from the caravan park to the Reighton Gap.

David in bottom row, fourth from left during his time at Orrell RUFC Juniors


Orrell RUFC)

Born in Wigan, David has represented Lancashire in league and rugby league, and was part of the Salford team that won the second division championship in 1991.

Fiona, David’s widow, criticized Haven for not providing enough tide warning signs, but the company’s regional health and safety director Craig Valentine gave evidence of the measures taken by the operator. Park operators take to warn guests of the dangers.

Although Haven’s land title ends at the foot of the road from the park to the beach, he said since 2018 it has partnered voluntarily with RNLI with the aim of educating customers about water safety.

These include signs, leaflets distributed around the site’s facilities, a map of the park, and welcome emails including links to the RNLI website and information about the company’s ‘Float to Live’ campaign surname.

In 2019, following one of the many rescues at Filey Bay, more meetings with the RNLI and closer links were agreed. One poster was proposed for the signs, and three were printed and erected on the beach walkway and cafe at Haven’s expense.

Christopher Bourne, Scarborough Council’s project leader, gave evidence and confirmed that he was responsible for the rescue contract with the RNLI and weekly inspections of life-saving appliances, as well as the installation of the life-saving appliances. warning sign on council land.

He visited the Reighton Gap after the death of David Fell and noted a lifebuoy, a working emergency phone and three ‘Water is unpredictable’ signs on the route from the caravan park to the beach.

He confirmed that the warning flags only operate on beaches with full-time lifeguards and that the three Filey Bay staff members will be performing rotational patrols to the Void in their vehicles.

Since the tragedy, posters have been replaced with signs warning of the lack of a lifeguard presence, and a further Reighton Gap risk assessment has been carried out.

Mr Longstaff added that the warning signs are now more informative than those present in July 2021, but added that he had no problem with the content of the previous sign.

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