Letterkenny court house
A Bundoran man whose body was found in a ditch at the side of a road 200 metres from his home died by drowning, the inquest into his death has heard.
Joseph White, 57, of Ardfana, Bundoran was found lying in running water in a ditch on December 10, 2019 after being missing for two days.
The inquest at Letterkenny Coroner’s Court returned a verdict of death by misadventure.
The court heard that a high alcohol level combined with heart disease may have contributed to Mr White’s death.
Taxi driver Patrick Maguire told the inquest he collected Mr White from Sean Og's pub in Ballyshannon at 12.05am on Sunday, December 8 along with another man. He dropped him off at his home on the road to Kinlough at 12.25am. He said Mr White was quite drunk but "not staggering all over the place".
Mr Maguire passed the house about half an hour later but didn't see any sign of Mr White.
A friend of Mr White’s, Gary Vaughan, told the inquest that on the following Tuesday he received a phone call telling him that Mr White had been missing since Saturday night. He arrived at the house at 1.45pm and conducted a search with the owner of the house and his friend James Gethins.
After finding nothing, they began searching along the road and found Mr White lying in a drain on his back about 200 metres from the entrance to the house.
They covered his head and phoned gardaí.
Sgt Hugh McCann of Ballyshannon garda station said he visited the scene on the Kinlough Road. He said there were no visible signs of injury but he noticed minor abrasions on the top of his head when Mr White’s body was being removed from the scene.
A full investigation was launched into the death and the scene was examined by scenes of crime investigators.
Garda McCann said he believed Mr White fell into the stream accidentally when urinating and could not get out.
There was no evidence that a third party was involved and no evidence of a road traffic collision.
A pathologist’s report by assistant state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said there were bruises and scratches on the body.
The report said Mr White had a very high level of alcohol which coroner Dr Denis McCauley said was about five times the drink-driving limit.
The coroner said Mr White probably fell into the ditch and drowned. Severe heart disease and the very high level of alcohol probably caused him to drown more easily, he said.
Dr McCauley found that Mr White died by drowning and returned a verdict of death by misadventure.
“It appeared Mr White was left off and walked down the road and may have stopped to relieve himself and then fell in the ditch,” he said.
The coroner thanked Mr Vaughan and his friends for going to look for Mr White and thanked the gardaí for carrying out a thorough investigation.
Dr McCauley expressed condolences to Mr White’s family on "the death of a young man in an unfortunate accident". Sgt Paul Lynch expressed condolences on behalf of the gardaí.
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