Coroner's inquest into the drowning of George Norton in Dover Harbour

Date: 1 June 1850
Taken from the Dover Telegraph on Saturday, 1 June 1850:

On Tuesday evening, at half-past seven o'clock, an inquest was held at the Rose and Crown, at the pier, before G. T. Thomson, Esq., coroner of the borough, on the body of George Norton, aged 37 years, one of the men employed with the "mud barges" in Dover Harbour, who met his death by falling overboard in the morning of that day.  Mr. Joseph Long was appointed foreman of the jury, and the body, which was lying at the Boom-house, having been viewed, the following evidence was taken: -

William Reffell, labourer in the employ of the Commissioners of Dover Harbour - I knew the deceased, who was employed in the same barge with me.  This morning, at about a quarter past 9 o'clock we were in the barge together, opposite to the Boom-house, and were in the act of warping her over to the other side.  The warp had already been made fast, and the deceased, with it in his hands, was walking backward to pass the rope over the timber head at the stern of the barge.  I was standing at the bow, and on turning round to see how he was getting on I saw him in the act of falling overboard.  I ran to his assistance, with a view of throwing him a rope; but the only one I could get was the one he had previously held in his hands, and that was drawn so tight by the stream of the tide that I could not get it to reach him.  I looked out for something else, but before I could get a plank to throw to him he had sunk.  The boat which had crossed with the rope then came up, and the man in it ran to the bow of the boat, but could not reach deceased.  In about 20 minutes from the time of the accident another boat came to the spot, and the men in it succeeded in picking up the deceased, who was then taken to the Boom-house.  I do not know what was the depth of the water at the time - I should think not above 5 or 6 feet, as a signal had just been hoisted for a steamer to enter.  Deceased did not attempt to swim.

John Martin, mariner - On hearing the cry this morning that a man was overboard, I ran for the Humane Society's drag, with which myself and two other sailors entered a boat near the Boom-house and forthwith cast out the drag, but at the first haul found nothing.  We then dragged at the spot where the man had sunk, and brought him up.  Deceased was soon landed, and taken to the Boom-house.  From the time that I heard the alarm till the deceased was picked up I should think 25 minutes had elapsed.  I judge there was about 5½ feet of water in the harbour at the time.  There was a strong tide running.

William Johnson, working in the harbour - I assisted in carrying the deceased this morning to the Boom-house, and was present during the whole time the usual means of restoration were going on.  Two medical men were in attendance - Mr Coleman's assistant, and a physician staying at the King's Head Hotel.  The attempts to re-animate deceased commenced about 10 o'clock, and were continued till about a quarter past one, but without success.

This forming the whole of the evidence, the Coroner summed up, and the jury returned a verdict of "Accidentally Drowned," and suggested that a recommendation be forwarded to the harbour master for providing an additional rope for the barges, for services in cases of accident that might again occur.


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