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EDITIONS
Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK
TV star's friend died accidentally
The Nausicaa yacht
Eight people were on board the yacht at the time
The coroner at the inquest into the drowning of a friend of broadcaster Chris Evans has recorded a verdict of accidental death.

James Ward, 50, died on 7 August after being knocked overboard from his boat during a sailing trip.

James Ward
James Ward: "Sailing was his true love"

The pub landlord drowned despite desperate attempts to pull him from the water, the inquest heard.

Mr Ward had been returning from a birthday party on the Isle of Wight with friends including multi-millionaire Mr Evans.

Eight people were on board the 31ft yacht Nausicaa when it sailed from Hamble Hampshire, bound for Yarmouth.

'Instinct'

Daniel Dineen, a company director, told the inquest he was at the helm when he saw the yacht's boom swing across and strike Mr Ward on the side of the head.

"It took a little time just to grasp what was happening at that stage. I was at the helm and I went forward to secure the sails, to allow me to turn the yacht about and find James," Mr Dineen added.

Chris Evans
Chris Evans: "Deeply shocked and saddened"

Mr Dineen said the passengers on the yacht did not know how to use the radio.

Television producer John Webster described how he jumped overboard in a desperate attempt to rescue Mr Ward.

"I saw James in the water, and I jumped in straight away, I didn't think about it. I did have all my clothes on, and I didn't think of taking anything off or grabbing a lifebelt. It was just instinct," he said.

Mr Webster said his bid to rescue Mr Ward was in vain.

"I was only 10 or 15 yards away from him, distances are so difficult to tell, I always felt like I was near to him. I also swam towards that direction. I felt like I was getting nearer, although I only saw him once as the swell grew. But then I lost him after that, and then it began to get dark very quickly."

'Ill-luck'

Dr George Millward-Sadler, a consultant pathologist at Southampton University Hospitals Trust, told the inquest that Mr Ward, who ran the White Horse Inn in Hascombe, Surrey, would have died in a matter of minutes.

Southampton Coroner Keith Wiseman recorded a verdict of accidental death.

"Accidents such as this happen several times daily in the Solent and it is a matter of ill-luck which makes the person concerned fall overboard after being knocked unconscious," he said.

Mr Evans, who often drank in Mr Ward's pub, did not attend the inquest.

At the time of Mr Ward's death he said he was "deeply shocked and saddened".

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Robert Hall
"The skipper owned Mr Evans's local pub"
See also:

20 Aug 02 | England
08 Aug 02 | England
08 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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