Ethan McKen inquest: Teacher drowned after 'going for paddle'

Ethan McKen
Image caption Ethan McKen gained a first-class honours degree in sports science and management before training as a teacher

An inquest has heard how a young teacher drowned after spontaneously deciding to go paddling just hours after he arrived on holiday.

Ethan McKen, 24, who "wasn't confident" at swimming, was swept out of his depth while at the Sunny Beach resort in Bulgaria, the inquest heard.

One of his friends tried to save him, but the pair were hit by a large wave.

A coroner in Nottingham, where Mr McKen was from, returned a conclusion of accidental death.

Kurt Toms, the friend who tried to save Mr McKen, said in his witness statement: "I'm completely broken by this and will have this with me for the rest of my life."

'Amazing son'

Image copyright family handout

Ethan McKen gained a first-class honours degree in sports science and management from Nottingham Trent University before training as a teacher.

The 24-year-old was one of six brothers.

His mother, Pat Burton, said he was "an amazing son".

"From the moment he started school he tried hard; all he's done is educate himself," she said after the inquest.

"It's so tragic because he had everything to go on for."

His girlfriend said: "He was my future. For this to happen just changed my life as I knew it."

Det Sgt Andy Buxton, the police officer who coordinated the evidence, said there were no suspicious circumstances.

He told the coroner's court Mr McKen and his friends had arrived in Bulgaria on the morning of 8 August 2015 and walked around the resort and visited a few bars shortly afterwards.

Mr McKen and Mr Toms decided to enter the sea with a young woman they had met in a bar.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Ethan McKen was on holiday in the resort of Sunny Beach, on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria

In his witness statement, Mr Toms said he and Ethan had "decided to go for a paddle in the sea", and there was "never any real intention to go swimming".

"He could swim but wasn't confident," Mr Toms said of his friend, who he recalled hearing shout: "Kurt! Help!"

"I initially had no idea anything was wrong," he said.

"As I've got closer I've seen that he's going under the water."

'Exceptional young man'

Mr Toms, who has done some lifesaving training, tried to take his friend back to the shore but they were hit by a large wave that caused them both to go under the water.

Mr McKen did not surface, and Mr Toms desperately tried to find him before being overcome by exhaustion, requiring medical treatment himself.

Mr McKen's cause of death was asphyxiation and drowning.

The toxicology report showed he had drunk a "moderate" amount of alcohol equivalent to the drink driving level, but Det Sgt Buxton said this did not play any part in his death.

Coroner Mairin Casey said Mr McKen was an "exceptional young man" and his death was "absolutely tragic".

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