THE family of a canoeist who died after his kayak became trapped in debris on a raging beck in the Yorkshire Dales said yesterday he died doing what he loved.
Matthew Baird Parker, 36, from Heckmonwike in West Yorkshire, had worked for a company which sold kayaks and was extremely experienced.
But on Sunday lunchtime he was with two other canoeists when he got into difficulties on the swollen Arkle Beck, a tributary of the River Swale, near Reeth.
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An operation involving five emergency services and 40 rescuers was launched after the alarm was raised.
A specialist crew from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, backed by Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team pulled him from the river, and the Great North Air Ambulance took him to James Cook Hospital, but he was pronounced dead.
His father Stephen Baird Parker, a photographer from Kidderminster, said: "Matthew was a very active and committed person and anything he did he did to his full extent.
"Kayaking has been wonderful for him. If there was a way you could wish to die then he would have wanted to die doing this. He was exceptionally good at it and it is all he wanted to do.
He added: "They all worked exceedingly hard to save him and I can only praise them. Perhaps he shouldn't have gone out, but I can't really say that.
"He never went out alone and the other two boys he was with also tried really hard to save him. He wasn't totally crazy with risk.“ The river had risen rapidly after 30mm of rain fell overnight on top of melting snow.
An inquest is due to be opened on Wednesday (January 30) and a report will be prepared for the coroner.
Mike Devlin of the British Canoe Union said their thoughts and condolences went out to the family.
He said they would follow the inquest to see if any lessons can be learned from the tragedy.
He added: “It isn’t up to us to say whether paddlers should have been out on the river, it is up to individuals to make a dynamic risk assessment on the ground taking into account their level of skill and local conditions.
"There will have been other paddlers out. When there is a lot of water around that is an attraction to white water paddlers, the important issue is people have to make appropriate judgements.”
Richmondshire councilor Bob Gayle from Reeth said: "This is an enormous tragedy, my heart goes out to the family. Arkle Beck swells extremely rapidly, it is quite a dangerous beck and after the recent floods there is all sorts of debris in there.”