A man from Blackpool lost his life after drowning in the Irish Sea in an attempt to save his girlfriend who was already in the water.
Alex Gibson had been on a night out with friends in Blackpool on Thursday July 29 last year.
He spent some time with his girlfriend on the evening but the pair separated when she went to Sapphires nightclub in the resort.
In the early hours of Friday morning, Alex’s girlfriend called him from the North Pier and told him she ‘didn’t want to live anymore’.
Alex, 22, raced to the seafront and went into the water to try and help her despite not being able to swim.
Alex Gibson, 22, from Blackpool drowned after a night out, having gone into the Irish sea to help his girlfriend who was in a state of distress, an inquest heard today
An inquest at Blackpool Town Hall today heard that she got out and went for help but Alex was then found face down in the water less than an hour later.
Alex had met his girlfriend while working at C Fresh Fish and Chips in Foxhall Road.
Speaking at today’s inquest, she said: ‘We were near the steps [to the right of the pier].
‘We were both in the water together. I was trying to help Alex because he couldn’t swim.
‘We were hanging on to each other trying to keep each other afloat.
‘I realised that the only way we were both getting out was if someone got help so I told him that I was going to get out and get help.
‘It took me a while to swim back because the current was really strong.’
After she managed to get out of the water she shouted back to Alex ‘to tell him it would be okay’.
‘He was just trying to stay afloat,’ she said.
‘I remember seeing him get further out. He was shouting for help.’
Mark Wright, who was sleeping rough in a shelter on the Promenade, said he was woken at 4.10am when he heard Alex’s girlfriend screaming: ‘Alex I can’t live without you.’
Giving evidence at the inquest, Mr Wright said he could see Alex ‘struggling to keep his head above the water’, but then lost sight of him because it was dark.
David Langton, who had also been asleep in a shelter, woke up when he heard Mark shouting to him: ‘Get on your phone David there’s someone in the water.’
‘[Alex’s girlfriend] told me she wanted to kill herself,’ Mr Langton said in a statement.
‘She told me her friend couldn’t swim. I tried to look for him but I couldn’t see anything.’
PC Ryan Kavanagh of Lancashire Police was driving down the Promenade at around 4.25am on Friday, July 30 and pulled over when he saw Mr Wright at the side of the road.
Senior Coroner Alan Wilson said: ‘Anyone who has seen the tide at Blackpool when it’s fully in knows it is dangerous’, concluding the ‘brave young man’ had died trying ‘to save a vulnerable young girl’
‘He asked me if I was there because there was someone in the water,’ PC Kavanagh said.
‘I drove to the other side of the pier… below was [Alex’s girlfriend] near the water’s edge. She was covered in a blanket.
‘She informed me she had been in the water, she didn’t want to be here anymore, and her friend had followed her to save her.
‘She told me she’d kill herself if Alex was deceased.’
Lifeboat helmsman Sean Wright, who has volunteered with Blackpool RNLI for 25 years, was involved in the search for Alex.
The crew spotted Alex’s girlfriend’s white Primark handbag floating in the sea and 15 minutes later, at 5.06am, found Alex’s body face down in the water 200 metres from the shore.
Alex was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital where resuscitation efforts continued but he was pronounced dead at 6.20am.
The medical cause of death was given as drowning with alcohol intoxication listed as a contributory factor.
Dillon Dixon had known Bradford-born Alex for 10 years after the pair met at school and the two friends shared a house together.
They had been out together on the Thursday night and Dillon had gone home at around 11pm.
The following morning at 6.18am, not knowing that his friend had just been declared dead, Dillon woke up and ‘jokingly’ text Alex saying ‘hope you’re alive’.
‘We’ve all jokingly sent similar after a night out,’ Dillon said.
The inquest heard Dillon, who had offered to take Alex to swimming lessons, thought of him as being ‘like a brother’ and the two friends ‘went through everything together’.
‘He was a proud vegan and had a heart of gold,’ Dillon said.
‘He enjoyed going to Stanley Park to feed the birds.
‘Alex has in the past had many dark thoughts and said he was tired of everything.
‘He was always sad inside but had the biggest smile on his face.’
The inquest heard that although Alex had self-harmed in the weeks before his death and ‘occasionally had dark moments’ there was no evidence he had deliberately taken his own life.
Concluding that Alex’s death was a result of misadventure – the unintended consequences of a deliberate act – Senior Coroner Alan Wilson said: ‘Disregarding his own welfare, as someone who could not swim, this young man bravely went in the water and tried to save a vulnerable young girl.
‘Anyone who has seen the tide at Blackpool when it’s fully in knows it is dangerous.
‘It’s most likely he got into difficulty pretty quickly and he was witnessed by someone trying to stay above the waterline. He could not survive.’
Alex’s dad, who attended the inquest, said that he had wanted to place a permanent memorial to his son close to where he drowned.
He added that Alex’s colleagues have raised the money to install a bench in Stanley Park.
After Alex’s death his boss at C Fresh posted online: ‘Alex was truly an amazing young man.
‘All his friends would agree that he was intelligent, hardworking, pleasant, caring and literally wouldn’t hurt a fly.
‘He is a true hero; drowned sacrificing his life to help another.
‘He was loved by all his work colleagues and we miss him terribly.
‘Tragically taken at 22. My heart goes out to all his family.’
A GoFundMe set up after Alex’s death raised £6,303 to help pay for funeral costs.
For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123, or go to www.samaritans.org.