Drowned Churchstoke man 'fought to save daughter'

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Simon Pearson and wife EmmaImage source, Shropshire Star
Image caption,
Simon Pearson was on holiday with his wife Emma and their family

A father drowned trying to save his 10-year-old daughter when they were caught in a strong current while on holiday in Italy, an inquest has heard.

Simon Pearson, 47, from Churchstoke, Powys, died at the Lido Bosco Verde beach in Ostuni on 18 July.

He had been swimming with his daughter and father-in-law when they drifted from the shore and shouted for help, a coroner in Shrewsbury was told.

Italian beach worker, Martino Maggi, who went to their aid, also drowned.

The inquest heard how experienced swimmer Mr Pearson, the managing director of Shropshire building materials firm Jesmonite, had gone to the beach in southern Italy with his wife, two children, his mother and his father-in-law.

In a statement read at the inquest his wife, Emma Pearson, said there had been warnings the day before not to go into the sea after a storm, but there was no warning on that day and the water appeared calm.

Mrs Pearson said she saw a red flag on the beach but after discussing it with her father Anthony McGregor a decision was made to enter the sea but not go out too far.

She remained on the beach with her mother-in-law and son, six.

She said she realised something was wrong when she saw her father swimming then stop swimming over again.

"He told me much later that he had tried to signal to me that he was caught in a strong undercurrent and was trying to warn me not to let anyone enter the water," she explained in her statement.

"He was essentially trying to get back to shore, but the current was preventing him. I was unaware of this at that moment.

"I then turned my attention back to Simon and [our daughter], who in that instant had gone from 10 metres out to much further.

"Simon was now up to his chin. I was shocked at how quickly they had gone out, it was unbelievably quick. Simon was waving at me and I had that fleeting thought 'Is he waving or drowning?'

"Suddenly Simon's hand shot up very quickly and I heard him shout 'Emma, Help me'."

She explained how she raised the alarm and two or three men ran into the sea to help while she tried to get a boat out to help them.

"I was still calling for help and all this time I could see Simon holding our daughter above the water," she said in her statement.

"The three men who had entered the water were also in trouble, and were all calling for help.

"They had tried to get to Simon and our daughter, but could not reach them."

Image source, Ostuni Notizie
Image caption,
There were strong currents in the sea when the incident happened

As she continued trying to get help, she noticed the first man who had entered the sea was back at shore.

"He had tried hard to reach Simon and our daughter, but couldn't get to them," she said.

"By this time, my father was right out at sea, but had managed to hold on to a buoy.

"I looked at Simon and our daughter and saw there were three men around them.

"One was holding Simon under his chin in the 'rescue' position and our daughter was being supported.

"I realised that Simon was in grave danger and needed help. I believed that he was at this time, unconscious."

Two of the men who tried to help the family were Martino Maggi who died during the rescue attempt and another called Ibrahim.

"Ibrahim made his way towards Simon and our daughter," said Mrs Pearson in her written statement.

"Ibrahim is a young, fit, strong swimmer and he managed to reach our daughter and get her back to shore.

"He told me later that he had to make a choice between Simon and our daughter, as he would not have been able to bring both of them back. He chose our daughter.

"By this time, there were men forming a human chain to try to reach Simon, and Ibrahim went back out into the sea again to help.

"I looked and could see my father still holding on to the buoy. My daughter was on the beach.

"I looked across at Simon. I was shocked to see him face down, alone and being taken further out to sea. The men that were around him were now trying to get back to shore.

"I realised Simon was dead," she said.

She recalled how she had watched her husband hold their daughter above the water and said: "I will never forget how hard Simon fought to save his daughter's life."

Coroner John Ellery said Mr Pearson died of drowning and it was "clearly an accident".

He added: "This was a double tragedy and our condolences to both the Pearson family and Martino's family in Italy."