Woman drowned after falling in river

The Coroners Court, Basil Close, Chesterfield.
The Coroners Court, Basil Close, Chesterfield.

A woman drowned after falling in the river while walking her dogs - an inquest has ruled.

Claire Mason, 41, of Bradwell, was walking in Hope when she slipped and fell in to deep, fast flowing water.

Passersby raised the alarm after seeing her terriers roaming near Pindale Road, wearing their leads and barking frantically at the river.

Walker Caroline Ashworth said: “They were barking quite wildly and running up towards us and then back to the river as though though they were trying to tell us something.”

A friend recognised the dogs and contacted Mrs Mason’s partner Richard Harrison.

Police were called at about 1.10pm, on September 26 and began a search of the river bank.

During the hearing at Chesterfield coroners court on Monday, family friend Andrew Watkin told how he had joined the search party.

Wiping back tears he said: “I walked along the river back to see if I could see anything.

“I came across a submerged person under a log and phoned 999 straight away. She was face down in the water, about four feet away from me.

“I felt like I could just jump in but the river was so high and moving very fast.”

A post-mortem found Mrs Mason had very high levels of alcohol in her body.

The court heard Mrs Mason, of Highview, Netherside, had a history of alcohol problems and drunk around ten cans a day.

But friends described Mrs Mason, who was a chef and had worked in several pubs in the village, as a “happy”, “upbeat” person.

Assistant deputy coroner James Newman ruled a verdict of accidental death.

He said: “There is no suggestion in my mind that this was deliberate.

“All the evidence says Claire was a very happy person who was making plans for her life and future.”

He added: “These are very clearly hugely upsetting circumstances. It’s not only affected Claire but her family and friends.”