Teenager's Pontcysyllte Aqueduct fall inquest adjourned as family calls for new report


Rory Sheehan

Questions remain over how a teenager fell to his death from an aqueduct.

An inquest was opened in Wrexham on Thursday into the death of Kris McDowell, 18, of Coronation Street, Cefn Mawr.

He died after falling from the 120ft Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in the early hours of May 31 last year.

The hearing was adjourned by North East Wales and Central Coroner John Gittins, after Mr McDowell’s family raised concerns about the independence and varying scope of reports carried out after his death.

These were undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive, and the Canal and River Trust, which is responsible for the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Legal respresentatives for the Canal and River Trust had opposed the request of an adjournment, stating that their reports were sufficient, but Mr Gittins decided otherwise.

Through solicitor Helen Pooley, Mr McDowell’s family who were at the hearing, requested a report be carried out by an independent expert.

This will be in addition to the other reports already undertaken, and will look at the inspection process, the condition of the rail Mr McDowell was holding onto, and the aqueduct overall.

The choice of expert will be at the discretion of the coroner and Mr Gittins also suggested he may summon a jury to help reach a conclusion. On granting the adjournment, Mr Gittins said: “My view is that whatever case I have before me, there must always be sufficiency of enquiry and a thorough investigation into a loss of life – whether that be an elderly person, or tragically, a young man in this case who had his whole life ahead of him.

“I offer my condolences to the family.

“Unfortunately, the legal process very often makes things worse for you, but hopefully at the end of it, it will be closure.”

Mr Gittins added that he could not yet provide a date for the inquest to resume.

A former Coleg Cambria student, Mr McDowell worked at McDonald’s in Chirk, and was also a volunteer at Plas Madoc Leisure Centre where he had qualified as a lifeguard.

He left behind mother Sam, 45, father John, 45, sister Hannah, 20, his 20-month-old niece, Freya, and grandparents, Chris, 65, and Derek Withington, 68.

Shortly after his death his grandmother Chris Withington paid tribute, describing him as “thoughtful, kind” and someone who “made a difference wherever he went.”

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