Shock to the body caused by hitting very cold water may have killed a soldier whose body was found in a lake, an inquest heard.
That was the verdict of assistant Beds coroner Bob Amos who was considering evidence presented following the death of Corporal Martin Kelleher at DISC Chicksands.
Corporal Kelleher, 37 was found in an ornamental lake at the base on the morning of Saturday, May 11 following a search by Army officers and police, the inquest at Ampthill Court House heard.
Immersion syndrome – sudden cardiac arrest when the body enters cold water – may have been the cause of his death, Mr Amos said.
Corporal Kelleher had not been seen since leaving a charity function at the base’s sports and social club at around 12.30am on Friday, May 10.
The languages student – who was wearing fancy dress and had been drinking – had walked by the lake on the way back to his accommodation.
After a search he was reported missing to Beds Police at 7.45pm that night.
Police later sought the help of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service during their search and Corporal Kelleher’s body was discovered in the lake at 11.29am the next morning, PC Darren Woodhouse told the court.
Police spoke to friends of Corporal Kelleher who had attended the function who said that he was in a good mood throughout.
PC Woodhouse also conducted a search of Corporal Kelleher’s room and found it to be in an immaculate state with his uniform laid out for class the following morning, he said.
Giving evidence, Major Joseph Lyons said Corporal Kelleher was a sociable man but one who was known to occasionally wander off on his own after he had been drinking.
Mr Amos said there was no evidence that this was because of any disputes or ill feeling between Corporal Kelleher and his fellow officers.
Toxicology reports showed that the amount of alcohol in Corporal Kelleher’s body would have equated to twice the UK drink-drive limit.
Major Lyons said the lake measured between 20 and 30 metres across and around 300 metres deep.
The water is around five feet deep in the middle point of the lake, he added.
He said: “We have signs up around the lake warning people to take care but after what has happened we have undertaken a review and we will be fitting a public address system and also increasing the CCTV in the area around the lake.”
Around 5,500 students are taught at the base each year but there have been no other incidents at the lake, Major Lyons added.
Corporal Kelleher’s father William told the court that his son was not a good swimmer, and Mr Amos said it was unlikely that he would have been trying to swim, especially as he was wearing trainers when he was found.
He recorded a narrative verdict, concluding that immersion syndrome was the most likely cause of Corporal Kelleher’s death.