Pc Bill Barker's Cumbria flood death an accident


The death of a police constable who fell from a bridge that collapsed during the Cumbria floods was an accident, an inquest jury has ruled.

Bill Barker was on Northside Bridge in Workington on 20 November 2009 when a section of it gave way underneath him and he was swept into a swollen river.

Pc Barker, 44, had been responding to reports that a car might have fallen into the River Derwent.

He said "let's get out of here" to his partner seconds before he fell.

The inquest in Cleator Moor heard the father-of-four was knocked unconscious with a blow to the head as he landed in the debris-strewn water and his body was carried eight miles downstream.

He was discovered later the same day on a beach at nearby Allonby.

It later emerged the report of the missing car was a false alarm.

He was due to celebrate his 45th birthday with his family the following day.

A post-mortem examination concluded he died from a combination of blunt head trauma and drowning.

The inquest heard evidence from colleagues and the officer's widow Hazel of his courage and dedication to his job.

The hearing was also told that Northside Bridge - more than 100 years old - was in "satisfactory condition" before the devastation caused by the "unprecedented" heavy downpour.

The force of the flood waters was of such magnitude that it probably overcame the weight resistance of the stone arch construction, experts said.

Image caption,
Pc Bill Barker had been with the Cumbria force for 25 years

After delivering the verdict, the jury foreman said: "As jurors, we would like to commend the actions of the public who were first at the scene and give our sympathies to Mrs Barker and her family for their tragic loss."

North and West Cumbria Coroner David Roberts said: "I would also concur with the jury in their expressions regarding the prompt action of members of the public. They are to be all commended.

"I offer my sincere condolences to Mrs Barker, who has displayed great dignity throughout in what has been an undoubtedly difficult year since last November, and to his family, friends and colleagues.

"He was a dedicated and caring police officer and a dedicated family man also. A man proud to serve west Cumbria and his country."

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