North West Wales

Accidental verdicts on two Snowdonia mountain deaths

Two men who died in separate falls in Snowdonia were both well-equipped and sensible, a coroner has said.

One of the inquests in Caernarfon heard that John Blackwell, 70, from Odstock, Salisbury, Wiltshire, slipped while trying to recover a rucksack on Snowdon last December.

Derren Barber, 39, from Bognor Regis, Sussex, fell near the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen in the Ogwen Valley in January.

Coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones recorded accidental death verdicts on both.

The inquests were both on Tuesday. The hearing on Mr Barber was told by a friend that he tried to save his companion, who was sliding on his back on the snow-covered 3,000ft (914m) peak, before he fell 450ft (137m) down a gully.

David Golding said he tried to grab hold and save Mr Barber, but he went over the side.

He added: "I want to thank the Ogwen mountain rescue team and the RAF, they have been phenomenal."

A Sea King helicopter based at RAF Valley on Anglesey had flown Mr Barber, a carpenter, to hospital, but he died from multiple injuries.

He had been wearing "micro spikes" on his feet, but had not been carrying an ice axe.

The coroner said it was difficult to say whether that would have made a difference, because he was on his back and would have had to roll on to his front for it to be effective.

The inquest heard that Mr Blackwell, a retired shepherd, had slipped 80ft (24m) on Snowdon, while he was on the mountain with his wife Valerie on a cold and windy day in December.

Both were keen walkers who had visited the peak many times before.

Mrs Blackwell said they had been looking for somewhere to eat their sandwiches, and got behind some rocks for shelter.

"His backpack started rolling, he ran after it and slipped over the edge," she said.

"We didn't realise it was such a drop - he slipped and by the time I got to him he'd gone," she added.

Mr Pritchard Jones said in both accidents the victims had been well equipped and sensible.

"It goes back to the old comment that there's no such thing as a safe mountain - that's just part of the risk of the sport," he added.

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