June 19 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, March 14, 2013
ACCIDENTAL death verdicts were returned today on two brothers who drowned at a remote Cambridgeshire lake where they had been retrieving dead geese after a shoot.
The Stretham brothers died on September 11, 2011 on Lake Mere at the Kingfisher Bridge habitat project at Wicken.
An inquest at Huntingdon heard how self-employed gamekeeper Luke, his father Andrew Fountain and landowner Andrew Green had been out shooting Canada geese near a 25-acre lake on Saturday, September 10.
They set about collecting some of the dead birds after finishing but stopped at about 8.30pm when the sun started to set.
The jury was told that 17-year-old Luke was asked to return to the lake the following morning by Mr Green to finish collecting the remaining dead birds.
He used a rowing boat moored at the side of the lake to retrieve the birds while his brother and father watched from the water’s edge.
Mr Fountain told the jury that his son dropped an oar while rowing towards an island but managed to retrieve it.
Mr Fountain turned away to talk to second son Ashley and “a split second later” Luke had fallen into the water.
Seeing that his brother was in trouble, Ashley, who was trained as a lifeguard, took off his boots and jacket and waded into the water.
The 22-year-old managed to reach his brother and set about swimming back to the shore with Luke in a “rescue position”.
Mr Fountain said the boys managed to reach the shallower water when they suddenly disappeared under the water.
He phoned emergency and rescue services but the brothers never reappeared. Ashley’s body was recovered hours later while Luke’s body was recovered the following day.
Landowner Mr Green described Luke as an “incredible young man” and said that the deaths of the duo “would never be erased from” from his mind.
He said: “Luke was like a son to me in some ways, I never dreamed for one moment it would end in tragedy.”
The inquest heard that Luke hadn’t received any training in using the boat and wasn’t wearing a life jacket.
He had been working as a contractor for Mr Green at the Kingfisher Bridge site for about nine months and was also studying at an agricultural college in Moulton, Northamptonshire.
The project itself began in 1995 with the transformation of 150 acres of arable farmland into meadows for wildlife and wildfowl.
Coroner David Morris said: “I would like to express my admiration for the selfless display by Ashley and offer my sincere condolences to the family.”