Death of man who crashed into Southwold Harbour still unexplained

PUBLISHED: 17:01 28 March 2012 | UPDATED: 17:22 02 April 2012

A car is lifted out of the harbour's mouth at Southwold, Suffolk.

A car is lifted out of the harbour's mouth at Southwold, Suffolk.

Archant © 2011

Mystery still surrounds the death of a man whose car plunged into the water at Southwold harbour, an inquest heard.

Philip Charles Evans was visiting the town in October last year when his car crashed through three barriers before plummeting into the River Blyth where emergency services were unable to save him.

The 89-year-old, of Blacksmith Close, Wangford, was believed to be in an OK state of mind on the day he crashed.

But today it was revealed he was suffering with coronary artery disease - although it is unclear whether a heart attack, or an accident where he pressed the wrong pedal in the car, led to his death.

Coroner Dr Peter Dean said: “We are left with a situation where we have different circumstances.

“An acute cardiac event may have caused him to drive into the sea, preventing him from saving himself, or the death could have been caused by a natural event, or submersion.

“It could be part of an accident of the foot going onto the wrong peddle but neither scenario can be proved.

“In the situation where we have this unanswerable conclusions I record an open verdict, but there was nothing untoward about his demeanour or state of mind.”

The tragic event took place on October 7 when witnesses described hearing a “loudly revving engine” and seeing a maroon-coloured Renault Kangoo “crashing through” the harbour car park.

The Southwold and Lowestoft lifeboat crews made attempts to prevent the car from sinking but it became submerged by a metre of water once the tide came in.

A crane appeared at the scene just before 9pm, while divers from the Metropolitan Police had travelled from London to assist with the recovery.

By 9.45pm the car was removed from the river and placed on the quayside in front of a white tent, but Mr Evans had not been saved.

Nick Evans, one of Mr Evans three children, said: “We are happy its clear that it was not deliberate act on dad’s part.

“We do feel the investigation has been extremely thorough and inevitably that has left a number of options and we haven’t been able to get to the bottom of what happened, but we want to remember him how he was.

“He was a loving father to all three of his children and he was mentally sharp.

“He overcame severe disability after a childhood accident at the age of 11 to educate himself and qualify as an architect.

“He never let his disability stop him from doing anything he wanted to do. He was fiercely independent and he maintained it to the last.”

Mr Evans, born in South Wales, was a retired architect whose wife, Mary Evans, had already passed away.

He was looked after by a house keeper and was known to take trips to Southwold to see the sea

The coroner recorded an open verdict during the inquest at Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court.

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