Experienced Dorset coast diver's death an accident

A combination of heavy equipment and distress contributed to the death of a diver on a salvage expedition off the Dorset coastline, an inquest heard.

Stephen Pickering, 41, was part of a team exploring a sunken World War I ship carrying precious metals in 1997.

A court heard he ignored advice to lighten his load and was thrown a rope but disappeared in the water. His remains were recovered last November.

Dorset coroner Rachel Redman recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Ms Redman said: "I am satisfied with the accounts given by the experienced divers.

"I will, on the evidence I have heard, rule out any suspicious circumstances."

Bubbles seen

The inquest was told Mr Pickering was diving with new, heavier gas cylinders and ignored advice from fellow divers to ditch his weight belt before entering the water to make him lighter.

Jeremy Lovell, part of a four-strong team on the salvage vessel Marja that day in August 1997, said Mr Pickering appeared distressed.

The court heard Mr Lovell, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, threw him another mask and a piece of rope, which he grabbed.

Bubbles could be seen from the area where Mr Pickering was last seen and a distress call was made, the inquest heard.

Two rib crafts were launched and a helicopter and two naval warships were brought in to help the search.

The remains of Mr Pickering, who had been diving since the early 1980s, were not found until November last year by a passing Dutch vessel off the Kent coast.

But the inquest also heard that Mr Pickering's mother, Iris Molyneux, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, believes there are suspicions.

However, inquiries by Dorset Police found nothing suspicious about the circumstances of the death.

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