North Cornwall hotelier weeps at inquest of friend's death
A HOTEL owner from North Cornwall was in tears on Monday as he described how his best friend drowned on a fishing day out near Tintagel Castle.
David Hart, 62, from Nash, near Ludlow in Shropshire, was hit by a wave while fishing from rocks with Iain Mackay who runs the Trenowan Hotel at Treknow, Tintagel.
Cornwall Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon recorded a verdict of accidental death on Mr Hart, a retired engineer and teacher, who drowned on August 14 last year.
An inquest at Truro on Monday heard that Mr Hart and his wife Liz stayed at Tintagel six times a year with Mr Mackay and his wife.
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Mr and Mrs Hart had travelled to North Cornwall after going to a nephew's wedding in Somerset. The two men went out fishing at Penhallick Point while their two wives went off together to an art exhibition at Polzeath.
Mr Mackay was upset as he gave evidence, describing how he went to put a fish in a bag after Mr Hart had caught it on his line.
As Mr Hart was cleaning his hook, Mr Mackay described how "just in the corner of my eye" he saw a 12ft-high wave knock his friend into the sea at about 1.40pm.
He called the emergency services on 999 and threw a lifeline and floating torpedo buoy into the sea, but the line was too short and Mr Hart could not reach it.
As he was being taken further out to sea a lifeguard from nearby Trebarwith Strand, Nathan Groves, paddled to the scene but by the time he got close he could just see a body floating face down 300 metres from the cliffs.
The RNLI lifeboat arrived from Port Isaac and eventually a rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose winched Mr Hart on board and took him to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Truro where he was pronounced dead.
Mr Mackay told the inquest the two had been friends for 25 years, as were their wives, and often the two men would go fishing at Penhallick Point.
"David managed to get a fish in, we were sharing a joke. I was putting the fish away and the next thing I turned around and saw a wave.
"It was the only wave which came in like that. When I went back David wasn't there.
"I shouted, 'are you all right David?' but he shouted back 'no'.
"I didn't know what to do. If I went in I would not have been able to get out."
Holidaymaker Janice Burton, who had been walking the cliffs with a friend said they came across the scene.
She said Mr Mackay was very distressed.
He told her he had just seen his best friend drown.
"He said, 'I have been fishing with him all my life.
" 'He went forward because he was trying to clean his hook and a wave washed him off'."