THE grieving parents of a man who died in Portishead Marina last year are calling for North Somerset Council to install barriers – following the coroner's recommendation that "action should be taken to prevent future deaths".

Andrew Rees, 38, died on February 3 after falling into the water at Portishead Marina on the way home from a night out. It is believed he died of a heart attack after hitting the water outside Portishead Primary School.

His father Steven Rees said: "We don’t want the whole marina fenced off, just that one particular stretch that everyone says is dangerous. A 100-yard stretch next to Portishead Primary School. You’ve only got to stand there for ten minutes and you’ll see people telling their kids 'stay away from the edge'."

Following Andrew's inquest in January of this year, Myfanwy Buckeridge, assistant coroner for Avon, issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report to both North Somerset Council and Boatfolk Marinas Ltd, who operate the popular marina.

The coroner recommended that “action should be taken to prevent future deaths” following Andy’s inquest.The coroner recommended that “action should be taken to prevent future deaths” following Andy’s inquest. (Image: Steven Rees)

Ms Buckeridge said a "significant change of use" was one of the triggers used to generate a review of the marina’s risk assessment by the authority, but that "no formal assessment or measure of whether a change of use (e.g. increase in amount or type of footfall/increased cyclists etc) had taken place was apparent."

She concluded: "In my opinion action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you, Boatfolk Marinas Ltd and North Somerset Council, have the power to take such action."

Boatfolk Marinas Ltd has since carried out the recommended changes, fixing the rescue chain on the wall of the marina. 

However, in response to the Coroner’s report, Clyde & Co Claims LLP replied on North Somerset Council’s behalf, stating that there was "absolutely no evidence" of risk, despite Andrew Rees' death, and listing two other incidents in the past decade – "a child falling into the Marina in 2013", who survived, and "one suicide at an unknown area in around 2016 / 2017".

It read: “Apart from these incidents there is absolutely no evidence before the court of any other accidents, incidents, deaths or near misses at this part of the Marina or indeed any part of it either historically or since Mr Rees' tragic death.

“There is no evidence before the court or identified in the evidence provided to the interested persons that there is any risk to life in the area, on-going or otherwise and despite the proximity of the school, leisure centre and residential premises.”

Andy’s family believe his death is evidence of a large enough risk to warrant barriers. Steven said: "It is obviously ridiculous to suggest there have only been a few incidents in the past decade as there's no reporting method for people who fall in and can get themselves out. Have they forgotten someone has died there?"

Andy's father, who worked as a police officer for 30 years, was also "deeply hurt" by correspondence from North Somerset Chief Executive Jo Walker to North Somerset’s former MP Liam Fox on his behalf, which suggested "cost" and "aesthetics" as possible reasons for a lack of barriers.

Ms Walker wrote: "The matter of barriers was raised by the Coroner. In response it was explained that barriers at this location can prevent the safe rescue of people that may be in the water. Barriers would also have to be incomplete at this location because of the need to allow access to the rescue ladders. The Marina also occasionally requires boats to dock along the wall which fencing would prevent. Finally, it is more common for water bodies not to be fenced because of cost reasons and in some cases aesthetics."

North Somerset Council spent £17,904 on solicitors representing them at Andrew’s inquest, as revealed by a Freedom of Information request submitted by Steven Rees.

A North Somerset Council spokesperson said: “Officers from North Somerset Council attended the inquest of the tragic death of Andrew Rees, and we offer our sincerest condolences to the family.

“The coroner’s conclusion of accidental death reflects the complex issues around the case. 

“The council has undertaken risk assessments of Portishead marina, to make sure it continues to be safe for public access. As agreed with the coroner, we have reviewed our risk assessment of the site, having considered all the information from the inquest. We also appointed an independent risk and safety adviser to advise on our risk assessment, to help ensure it is as robust as possible. Based on their findings, we have installed additional barriers by the RNLI lifeboat station (to the north of the marina), and along part of the west side of the marina, near Parish Wharf leisure centre. 

“Our reviewed risk assessment highlights locations where barriers are necessary, and these are in place. The council has discussed the matter of barriers with the coroner, and we explained that adding additional barriers in other locations could prevent the safe rescue of people who may be in the water, and would block access to rescue ladders. The marina also occasionally requires boats to dock along the wall, which fencing would prevent. The coroner did not conclude that the site should be wholly barriered.

“We have also followed the coroner’s recommendation to formally revise our risk assessment to reflect any significant changes to the way people use the marina. As was explained at the inquest, the council was already revising risk assessments when needed, and we have now formalised this approach for the future.”

Ash Cartman, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for North Somerset, said: "I completely support Steven’s  'BUILD THE BARRIERS SAVE LIVES' campaign. The coroner has said that there is a future risk to life, so we must act. Aesthetics and cost should not be prioritised over the well-being and safety of us all."

Conservative Parliamentary candidate for North Somerset, Liam Fox, has also offered his ongoing support. Other candidates for the seat are Sadik Adam Al-Hassan (Labour Party), Suneil Basu (Workers Party), Alexander Kokkinoftas (Reform UK), and Oscar Livesey-Lodwick (The Green Party).