United Kingdom

Friend weeps as he tells inquest how he couldn't save drug-fuelled Brit, 30

A man wept at an inquest as he recalled being unable to save his friend who drowned after falling off an Amsterdam party boat.

Wind farm rigger Neil Stewart, 30, from Newcastle, fell into the North Sea Canal in November 2017. His body was recovered the following month.

An inquest in Newcastle was told how the father-of-two's fiancee Chelsea Dixon surprised him by arranging the weekend away, which involved flights, a hotel and a Saturday night at the BTID (Bounce Til I Die) dance event on a boat.

Mr Stewart's friend and colleague Paul Armes was also on the boat, and told the inquest he realised someone was in the water when the vessel stopped.

Mr Stewart's fiancee Chelsea Dixon told the hearing they had met friends who had just got engaged and had drinks together during the day

He said someone else told him Mr Stewart had climbed three steps before jumping in.

Mr Armes told the inquest he had first aid and water rescue qualifications and wanted to swim across to his friend in the water with a life belt.

He wept as he told the inquest: 'I just wanted to help him.'

Mr Armes said he saw a safety boat on top of the vessel that could be used in case of an emergency but he told the coroner the crew said it was not safe to deploy it.

Another vessel came alongside and lit up the water with bright lights, and Mr Armes said he could see Mr Stewart in the water for approximately 10 minutes from when the party boat stopped.

Mr Stewart's fiancee Ms Dixon told the hearing they had met friends who had just got engaged and had drinks together during the day.

She said Mr Stewart had a few puffs of a joint and eaten some 'space cake' containing cannabis at a cafe.

Post-mortem toxicology tests revealed he had taken cocaine during the day, coroner Karen Dilks was told.

Ms Dixon said: 'He was happy and he was having a good time.'

But while on a smoking deck on the party boat, Mr Stewart was said to have assaulted someone, and a security guard cleared the area and sat him down until he was calm, Ms Dixon said.

She said went to get a chair to sit with Mr Stewart, and when she turned around, he had vanished into the water.

When Ms Dixon was asked if she had seen him get into the water, she said no, adding: 'If there was anything else I would wish for in my life, it would be to have an answer to that question.'

Asked if Mr Stewart ever expressed an intention to harm himself, Ms Dixon replied: 'Absolutely not.

Neil's body was recovered the following month. Post-mortem toxicology tests revealed he had taken cocaine during the day. Pictured, police conducting a search

'Neil told me that morning it was the happiest time of his life.

'He always said 30 was going to be his year.'

Ms Dixon said party-goers had not been given advice on how to stay safe while on the boat.

Fellow party-goer Samantha Godkin, who witnessed Mr Stewart hit her friend Paul Tomlinson in the jaw, said guests were given advice before getting on board about how to stay safe.

She said: 'You were advised about the issues of being careful and to keep yourself safe.'

The inquest continues.

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