Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Mother's Oxfordshire narrowboat death an accident

The death of a mother who fell under the propellers of a narrowboat she was steering on a family holiday was a tragic accident, an inquest heard.

Amanda Chapell, 47, from Devon, was negotiating a lock in Cropredy village, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, when the boat hit the lock gate last July.

She was propelled into the water. Her husband and children witnessed her death, the hearing was told.

The Oxfordshire coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Mr Chapell, 44, told the inquest that his teaching assistant wife had been at the helm of the boat as they entered the canal lock on 30 July, 2009.

Mr Chapell said he and their daughter, Anna, 15, were controlling the two sluices while their son, Tom, now 18, was at the front of the boat.

'Over the handrail'

The family, from Totnes, began to "jiggle" the craft into the middle of the lock, as they had been advised, the hearing heard.

Mrs Chapell put the boat into a stern gear, as she had done many times before, after "quite a lot of water flowed in to the lock", her husband said.

The inquest heard the vessel then began to move backwards.

But by the time his wife realised she had already moved from her position at the helm - possibly to pull in one of the narrowboat's fenders, Mr Chapell said.

When she attempted to return to the helm to put the boat in neutral or reverse to steady it, the craft's rear fender struck the lock gate.

In "a matter of seconds" she was sent straight over the handrail, said Mr Chapell who had been about 50ft (15m) from his wife when she disappeared into the water.

Coroner Nicholas Gardiner said: "I view this as a tragic accident.

"[Mrs Chapell] was not very highly experienced. The boat collided with the rear gate of the lock with some force.

"She would have been sucked around in the swell of the boat and suffered the injuries [from the propeller] causing her death."

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