Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 17:50 UK

Father recalls girl's canoe death

Billie Clayton
Billie Clayton died after her canoe capsized

A TV presenter had to choose which of his two children to try to save first after becoming submerged in river rapids when their canoe overturned.

Ian Clayton, who works for ITV Yorkshire, was speaking at the inquest of his daughter Billie, who died during an outing on the River Wye in Powys.

Mr Clayton and his son Edward were treated for hypothermia after escaping the fast-flowing currents at Glasbury.

But Billie was not found until it was too late. The inquest continues.

The inquest in Welshpool, Powys, heard how Mr Clayton, 48, of Featherstone, West Yorkshire, and two police officers tried to save Billie.

But she was later pronounced dead at Hereford General Hospital.

'Right decision'

Mr Clayton told the hearing the canoe overturned after he took a wrong turn in the river while they tried to make their way downstream in Hay-on-Wye.

He said his son Edward was left clinging on to the branches of a felled tree while there was no sign of his daughter, who he suspected was under the overturned canoe stuck upstream.

"At times I dream I went the wrong way. It is something that has been in my mind for two years and two months." said Mr Clayton.

"Did I make the right decision? I don't know and I suppose I will never know. Should I go for the one I can see and hope that later I can find the one I can't see?

"In the end I went for the one I could see. It wasn't without difficulty getting him out."

He added: "When I eventually got to Edward in the river that day, the first thing he said to me was: 'Save my sister first'.

"It is hard to imagine what must have been going through that little lad's mind for him to say that."

'Blink of an eye'

Mr Clayton said his family had spent the morning looking around the bookshops of Hay-on-Wye while on holiday on 12 April 2006.

As his partner, Heather Parkinson, was scared of water, Mr Clayton said he and their children had arranged to meet her back in the town when they had finished.

But just over an hour into the trip Mr Clayton said they got into difficulty.

"Suddenly we were taken and I couldn't steer the canoe because it was forceful on the bend. In the blink of an eye we hit something which I thought was a fallen tree and the canoe tipped over," he said.

Marcus Bailie, the head of inspection for the Adventure Activities Licensing Service, said activities such as canoeing were only licensable if they involved leadership or guidance from the operator.

He said another principal exemption for licensing such activities was if a participating child was accompanied by their parent or legal guardian.

Howard Jeffs from the British Canoeing Union said checks carried out on the equipment used following Billie's death failed to identify any faults.

Musical fund memorial for Billie
13 Jul 06 |  West Yorkshire

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