BY LOUISE ROSEINGRAVE
A retired public school teacher from Oxfordshire died after a summer sailing trip turned to disaster in West Cork. Douglas Perrin (66) had retired to live at Ard na Gaotha, Dunmanus, Goleen, Co Cork, a year before his death last August.
He had purchased his 24ft sailing boat, a Drascombe Lugger called the Zillah, two years previously.
Mr Perrin, who taught politics at Bloxham School in Banbury, Oxfordshire, before retiring to Ireland, was a former sailing teacher who was ‘very safety conscious,’ an inquest into his death heard earlier this week.
‘He decided to take some friends on a short sailing trip, we were due to have dinner at 7pm,’ his wife Judith Perrin said in her statement.
Perrin gave his guests, Marian Brown from Oxford and Patrick Anwyl from London, life jackets before departing Schull pier at around 4pm on August 13 2014.
‘Three people fitted comfortably into the sailing boat, Douglas had given us lifejackets and we had no worries as he knew the area,’ Ms Brown said in her statement.
The trio left the pier under engine and then raised the sails, taking a left towards Castle Island.
‘We did a tack and changed positions, conditions were uncomfortable at this stage,’ Ms Brown said.
Feeling sea-sick, she passed the operation of the rudder over to Mr Anwyl.
‘Around this time the boat overturned, I held onto the keel as best I could. Patrick was holding onto the back, Douglas was also holding on.
‘We were about 50 yards from an island, collectively we discussed it and started to swim. I did the breast stroke first and then turned over onto my back and once the swell dropped we managed to climb onto a dry section of rock. We could see Douglas lying passively in the water, just drifting,’ Ms Brown said in her statement, read out at the inquest before coroner Frank O’Connell in Bandon courthouse.
They decision to swim to the uninhabited Castle Island was made because the boat was drifting further from land.
‘Douglas decided to swim; we decided to go as a group. Douglas said he was getting cold and had swallowed a lot of water. Once on the rocks, we were knocked around quite a bit because of the swell ... we knew we were safe but had to be rescued,’ Mr Anwyl said.
‘The [coast guard] helicopter swept over us twice, we were in the beam, but they didn’t see us,’ Ms Brown said.
She described feeling ‘excited and delighted’ when Schull Inshore Lifeboat and Baltimore RNLI arrived early the following morning.
Robbie Shelley, of the Schull Inshore Lifeboat rescue team said the two were spotted about 40ft up a cliff face on the island.
‘Both were hypothermic, but they explained the direction in which Douglas may have drifted,’ he said. The survivors were airlifted to Ilen Rovers GAA pitch in Baltimore and later transferred to Bantry General Hospital.
Mr Perrin’s body was found 200m off the northern end of Sherkin Island later that day.
He died of acute cardiac failure due to drowning, and hypothermia was ‘almost certainly’ a factor, according to assistant State pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster. Emphysema and ventricular fibrosis were contributory factors to his death also, Dr Bolster said.
Coroner Frank O’Connell returned a verdict of accidental death.
‘Even before the two survivors reached the shore, he was in deep trouble,’ the coroner said.
‘He was unconscious at an early stage and ultimately drowned.’