Cookham drownings: Man died trying to save friend

Image source, @ozzieuk
Image caption,
The men got into difficulty in the River Thames by Odney Weir in Cookham

A man drowned trying in vain to save his friend who had got into trouble in the River Thames, an inquest heard.

Father-of-five Eyad Al Ryabi, 31, and Mohammad Al Safadi, 37, had both been swimming in the river at Cookham, Berkshire, on 23 June.

Reading Coroner's Court heard Mr Al Ryabi disappeared while trying to save Mr Al Safadi. Mr Al Safadi was pulled from the water but died in hospital.

Assistant coroner Katy Thorne QC recorded their deaths as accidental.

Image source, @ozzieuk
Image caption,
Mohammad Al Safadi and Eyad Al Ryabi had been enjoying a picnic with friends at the popular swimming spot

The inquest heard the men, of Syrian background, had travelled with a group of friends to Odney Weir in Mill Lane, where they had a picnic and went swimming.

At about 18:45 BST Mr Al Safedi got into difficulties near the weir. Mr Al Ryabi, from Uxbridge, west London, went back into the water to save his friend but disappeared, prompting a search of the river.

Image caption,
The men of Syrian background had been enjoying the weather at the popular swimming spot

Mr Al Safedi, from Hounslow, west London, was eventually dragged out by members of the public and taken unconscious to hospital.

He died from multiple organ failure on 25 June. Mr Al Ryabi's body was located by a dive team using sonar equipment the day before.

Giving evidence, police staff investigator Collette Gray told the court a language barrier between police and the men's friends had made it difficult to establish Mr Al Ryabi was missing.

A cousin of Mr Al Ryabi previously said he was a refugee from south-west Syria who had come to the UK towards the end of 2019 and had hoped his wife and children could join him for a better life in Britain.

Paying tribute, Khald Al Ryabi said: "That's why he came here. He came here to save his life and his family's life."

Ms Thorne concluded the inquest by expressing her "deepest condolences" to the men's friends and families.