THREE kayakers from the same family who drowned in a river were "relatively inexperienced" having recently taken up the sport, a coroner said today (Thursday).

Inquests were opened into the deaths of brothers Darren and Mark Thorpe and their cousin Gavin Bradley, who went for a day out on the River Tyne near Hexham, Northumberland, and did not come home.

Darren, 41, Mark, 39 and their 36-year-old cousin, a shop assistant, set off from their homes in South Tyneside at around 9am on Sunday and were due to return to their wives at 7pm.

Loading article content

Kerry Thorpe, Mark's wife, raised the alarm at 11pm when the men did not come home.

A major search operation involving police, fire, the RAF, Coastguard and search specialists, was launched and the three bodies were found in separate locations in the Tyne the next day.

At a hearing that lasted less than ten minutes, the coroner for North Tyneside and South Northumberland, Eric Armstrong, said the men had told their partners they would be kayaking in the Hexham area.

"It would appear the three recently took it up as a sport in their spare time," Mr Armstrong said. "They were, it would seem, relatively inexperienced and not attached to a club."

The cause of death in each case was drowning, though further tests would be carried out.

He added: "At this stage there are no suspicious circumstances and nothing to suggest any third party involvement."

All three inquests were adjourned provisionally until July 10.