A much loved RNLI crewman died in a freak accident while trying to adjust the moorings on his boat, an inquest heard.
Paul Giles, 46, a member of Weston-super-Mare RNLI, had gone out on the evening of June 28 to do a ‘quick fix’ to the moorings of his boat at Uphill Boatyard.
But while attaching the ropes and pulley to the tow hitch of his Landrover under tension, the tow bar gave way, propelling the ball hitch 20 metres into the air.
The metal ball hit the dad-of-two on the head, knocking him unconscious, causing him to fall into the water and drown.
Mr Giles’s wife, Ruth told the inquest at Avon Coroner’s Court: “The stern of the boat was moving out into the river.
“He wanted to go and fix it and try out his new GPS radio.”
Mr Giles, a self employed carpenter, left his home at Glencroft Way around 6.30pm.
Mrs Giles said: “When he wasn’t back by 11pm I thought he may have had a lifeboat call or gone to the yacht club for a drink with friends.”
Mrs Giles went to bed and dozed, waking again at 1am to realise her husband was still not home.
Becoming increasingly concerned, she rang the coastguard to see if there had been a lifeboat call, only to find out there hadn’t been.
“I knew then it was serious,” she added.
Mrs Giles then went to the boatyard to see if her husband was still there.
Using a torch she quickly spotted her husband’s Landrover, before making her way to the riverbank where she found him face down on the muddy bank.
She then called friends and the emergency services including Mr Giles’s RNLI colleagues, with both police and friend Pete Sadler – an off duty paramedic – arriving and administering CPR and using a defibrillator in a bid to revive Mr Giles.
Tragically he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Pete Watts, a boat builder and long term friend of Mr Giles, also arrived on scene who, along with others, noticed the towbar from the Landrover was missing.
He said: “The sling should have been attached to the tow bar but it was not.
“The tow bar and sling were quite far out sticking in the mud,.
“It seemed as if it had come away from the vehicle and struck him.”
The inquest heard how while Mr Giles had been adjusting the mooring ropes, the towbar – which had been fitted less than a year ago – snapped off under the tension.
The ball hitch hit Mr Giles in the head, causing a bleed on the brain and skull fractures.
Assistant coroner for Avon Terence Moore said Mr Giles would have been knocked unconscious immediately due to the force of the impact.
Mr Moore said although the rear tow bar would have been checked at an MOT inspection, the front one – which had signs of rust on the plate which welded it to the vehicle – would not have been.
Toxicology reports showed that Mr Giles had no alcohol or drugs in his system.
A post mortem examination gave the cause of death as drowning due to head injuries and immersion in water and mud.
Mrs Giles told the inquest: “I want to thank everyone that night. They were all brilliant.
“We have lost a wonderful man and our lives will never be the same.”
Mr Giles joined the lifeboat crew in 1993 and served as boat crew until 2000 and then as helmsman until 2012.
He rejoined the RNLI in 2017 serving as one of the management team, responsible for authorising the launch of the boats for rescues and the day-to-day management of the station and team.
Mr Giles also became a member of Weston Bay Yacht Club and took up sailing with a small boat of his own in more recent years.
Weston RNLI operations manager Mike Buckland said that Mr Giles’s death had devastated the team.
He said: “A man with such passion and commitment will be sadly missed by everyone at Weston-super-Mare Lifeboat Station.”
The inquest heard how Mr Giles’s death was as a ‘freak’ and ‘tragic’ accident.
Mr Moore recorded a conclusion of accidental death.