Neil Stewart’s body was recovered two weeks after he fell into the canal in Amsterdam (Photos: PA / Shutterstock)
A British clubber who drowned after being on an Amsterdam party boat might have jumped in the water as a prank, a witness told an inquest.
Wind farm rigger Neil Stewart, 30, from Newcastle, died in the North Sea Canal in November 2017 – and his body was recovered the following month.
An inquest in Newcastle was told how the father-of-two’s fiancée Chelsea Dixon surprised him by arranging the weekend away, which involved flights, a hotel and a Saturday night at the BTID – Bounce Til I Die – dance event on a boat.
Mr Stewart had got into an altercation in a smoking area outside and had been kept away from other guests by security while he calmed down, coroner Karen Dilks was told.
In a statement, witness Kirsty Green said she saw him deliberately jump off the boat into the canal.
‘It looked like it was slow motion’
She said: “He was stood alone, smoking and the next thing I saw was him in the air, it looked like it was slow motion, I saw him smiling or laughing.
“I then panicked and called security.”
She explained she thought it might have been a “silly prank” because he was laughing in the water.
She saw a light in the water, possibly coming from his mobile phone screen.
Mr Stewart’s friend and colleague Paul Armes was on the boat too, and he realised someone was in the water when the vessel stopped.
He said someone else told him Mr Stewart had climbed three steps and jumped in.
Mr Armes told the inquest he had first aid and water rescue qualifications and wanted to swim across to his friend with a life belt.
He wept as he told the inquest: “I just wanted to help him.”
Mr Armes said he saw a safety boat on top of the vessel that could be used in emergencies, but he told the coroner the crew said it was not safe to deploy it.
Another vessel came along side and lit up the water with bright lights, and Mr Armes said he could see Mr Stewart in the water for approximately 10 minutes from when the party boat stopped.
Fellow party-goer Samantha Godkin, who witnessed Mr Stewart hit her friend Paul Tomlinson in the jaw, said guests were given advice before getting on board on how to stay safe.
She said: “You were advised about the issues of being careful and to keep yourself safe.”
‘He was having a good time’
Mr Stewart’s fiancée told the hearing they had earlier met friends who had just got engaged, they had drinks together during the day and Mr Stewart had a few puffs of a joint and eaten some “space cake” containing cannabis at a café.
Post mortem toxicology tests revealed he had taken cocaine during the day, the inquest heard.
Ms Dixon said: “He was happy and he was having a good time.”
Ms Dixon did not see the confrontation in the smoking area but was trying to calm him afterwards.
She went to get a chair to sit with him and when she turned round, he had gone.
Asked if she had seen what happened, Ms Dixon said she did not see him jump, adding: “If there was anything else I would wish for in my life, it would be to have an answer to that question.”
Asked if Mr Stewart ever expressed an intention to harm himself, Ms Dixon replied: “Absolutely not.
“Neil told me that morning it was the happiest time of his life.
“He always said 30 was going to be his year.”
The inquest continues.
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