Hero drowned rescuing suicidal friend from sea as he didn’t know how to swim

Man, 22, died rescuing suicidal pal from sea despite not being able to swim
Alex Gibson, 22, died in tragic circumstances on July 30

A chip shop worker died after running into the sea to save his friend who was trying to take her own life, an inquest has heard.

Alex Gibson, 22, didn’t know how to swim but bravely followed the woman, 18, into the water after a distressed phone call.

He was tragically found face down off the coast of Blackpool, Lancs shortly after 5am on July 30.

The young man had met up with his female friend at Trilogy night club around 10pm the previous night, before they separated to go to separate venues.

After going to a second club, the woman became upset and walked towards the seafront to phone Alex saying she wanted to end her own life, the inquest at Blackpool Town Hall heard.

The teenager, who has a history of mental health issues, entered the water and Alex followed but ended up having difficulty.

She told the inquest she ‘really can’t remember’ how they both ended up struggling in the water.

‘We were grabbing onto each other, trying to keep each other afloat’, she said. ‘I realised that the only way we were both getting out is if someone got help, so I was trying to express to him that I was going to get out and get help.

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‘It took me a while to swim back because the current was strong. I went to grab my phone but realised it had come off in the sea.

‘I was trying to shout to him and tell him it would be OK, and as soon as I realised I didn’t have my phone I started shouting for help.

‘He was just trying to stay afloat. I just started screaming for help. I didn’t know what else to do.’

Two homeless men, Mark Driver and David Langton, said they woke nearby to the sound of a woman screaming ‘Alex, I can’t live without you!’

They ran closer to the scene, and saw Alex struggling in the water before he vanished under the pier.

Mr Langton said he called 999 and rushed down to the lower part of the Promenade to comfort the woman.

‘I was worried she would enter the water so I stayed with her and put my arm around her. I was worried about her being cold, so I put my blanket around her’, he said.

‘Her hair looked wet. I actually thought she was topless. She told me she wanted to kill herself. She told me that she had been in the sea and that her friend couldn’t swim.’

Coastguard teams and RNLI volunteers raced to the scene with a helicopter to find Alex floating in the water at 5.06am. He died in Blackpool Victoria Hospital around an hour later.

Pathologist Sudoba Weerasinghe said his cause of death was drowning. Alcohol use was also said to contribute, with 172mg of alcohol found in the chip shop worker’s body, more than twice the legal driving limit.

It remains the police’s position that he died trying to rescue his friend, based on her initial statement and police body cam footage taken at the scene which recorded her repeatedly saying: ‘He came in after me.’

Recording a conclusion of death by misadventure, coroner Alan Wilson said: ‘Disregarding his own welfare, knowing he could not swim, he bravely got in the water and tried to help her.

‘Getting into the sea is dangerous whatever the time and even for a strong swimmer.

‘It’s likely he got into difficulties pretty quickly and despite his best efforts he had been seen trying to stay above the water. He could not survive.’

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