Page last updated at 20:27 GMT, Tuesday, 17 June 2008 21:27 UK

Firm boss sorry for canoe death

Billie Clayton
Billie Clayton died after her canoe capsized

The owner of a company who rented a canoe to a man whose daughter later drowned after the vessel capsized said he wished he had never seen the canoes.

Billie Clayton was on the River Wye in Powys with her twin brother Edward and their father Ian when the accident happened at Glasbury, an inquest heard.

Ian Clayton, 48, a presenter for ITV Yorkshire, was able to reach his son, but Billie was not found until later.

The family were the first and last customers of Hay Canoes.

Wayne Sheppard, from Brecon, set up the company with his friend Derek Price after enjoying canoeing with his own family.

He told the inquest he had no idea the conditions were so bad that day in April 2006.

You can't always account for circumstances of different conditions
Heather Parkinson, partner of Billie's father, Ian Clayton

"If I had thought it was dangerous, I wouldn't have let you on the river, Mr Clayton. That's gospel.

"I've got children of my own. I've got grandchildren of my own," he said.

Mr Sheppard said he had "cried for about six months" following Billie's death.

The inquest heard the last time he or Mr Price had canoed on the river between Glasbury and Hay-on-Wye, where the Claytons were heading, was in late 2004 or early 2005, before the formation of an ox bow lake which affected the current.

Mr Price, from Old Radnor, Presteigne, held up a bible as he told the court: "I'm very sorry about this accident.

"I would swear on this Bible. I've five children of my own. I'm deeply sorry about it. I'm so sorry."

Mr Clayton and his partner Heather Parkinson acknowledged his apology, with Ms Parkinson adding: "You can't always account for circumstances of different conditions.

I thank you for your local knowledge - I thank you for taking time on your day off, and I just thank you, for you were the one who found her
Ian Clayton, father of Billie, to firefighter Richard Wildee

"I know it's been hard for you in some ways, and your families too."

The inquest heard Mr Sheppard had bought new equipment, including safety helmets and lifejackets, when he set up the company. He did not need a licence as he was not providing instruction, just renting out the canoes.

However, he called for more safety checks and for licensing requirements for hire firms.

The second day of the hearing in Welshpool, Powys, had previously heard from a couple canoeing on the same stretch of river who had capsized a week earlier.

Christopher Boulter, from Crickhowell, Powys, who arranged the trip for his wife Diane's 50th birthday, said they got into difficulties after a strong current took them towards a submerged tree trunk they had been warned about, causing the boat to overturn.

Billie and her family were on the river on 12 April, 2006, and the police and firefighters attempted to save her after their canoe overturned.

'Buoyancy aid'

Retained firefighter Richard Wildee, based in Hay-on-Wye, who was part of a team who launched a rescue boat, described how his colleague found a buoyancy aid after spotting a submerged paddle near bushes on the riverbank.

Mr Wildee said: "He reached down and basically grabbed hold of a buoyancy aid that had been submerged, that we hadn't seen.

"The buoyancy aid came up, and the little girl was inside."

"We treat everybody as being alive until you're told otherwise, so we started CPR [cardio-pulmonary resuscitation]," added Mr Wildee.

Mr Clayton, of Featherstone, West Yorkshire, told the firefighter: "It's the first time I've had the chance to thank you for what you did.

"I thank you for your local knowledge. I thank you for taking time on your day off, and I just thank you, for you were the one who found her, really.

"I spent a long time fighting the water trying to find her, and I couldn't. So thank you for finding her."




SEE ALSO
Father recalls girl's canoe death
16 Jun 08 |  Mid Wales
Musical fund memorial for Billie
13 Jul 06 |  West Yorkshire

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