A MAN has relived the harrowing fight to save a fellow kayaker's life after he became trapped underwater in a freezing Yorkshire Dales beck swollen by melting snow.

James Pullen, from Darlington, told the inquest into the death of Matthew Baird-Parker, how he and fellow kayaker John Wootton battled for half an hour to try and free the 36-year-old. 

Mr Baird-Parker's kayak had became stuck beneath a tree in Arkle Beck, a tributary of the river Swale, near Reeth.

As desperate attempts to keep him above water failed, the pair left to raise the alarm and a major emergency operation swung into action involving 25 rescuers and two helicopters. It took fire officers with specialist equipment 45 minutes to retrieve the kayak.

Mr Baird-Parker, of Liversedge, West Yorkshire, was still trapped inside.

It was hoped that, despite being underwater for about an hour, he may survive due to the low water temperature.

But he was pronounced dead at The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough. The cause of death was drowning and hypothermia.  

Speaking after the inquest, his father Stephen Baird-Parker said his son had worked for a firm selling kayaks and the sport was his life.

“You can’t tell your children not to do things, it had become his life, he was eating and drinking kayaking, there was no way he shouldn’t have been there," he added.

Mr Pullen told the Richmond inquest that ten kayakers had met at Scotch Corner on January 21, this year,  and that the three of them had split off.

He said that he hadn't known Mr Baird-Parker well but added: “I have never met anyone who threw himself into the sport with such enthusiasm."

Problems began when they rounded a bend to find two trees in the water.

Mr Baird-Parker became caught sideways on the second tree, with his  kayak being pulled down and filling with water as his fellow kayakers rushed to help.

Mr Pullen said: “Matt was struggling and shouting and trying to free himself.

“I tried to help him get his spray deck off, but as soon as I put my hand in the water I couldn’t feel anything, I lost all sensation and I just couldn’t get him out.

"He was losing consciousness and his lips had turned blue. I slapped his face to try and get him to regain consciousness.

"After ten minutes he did slip under the water. I tried to breath into his mouth.”

The two men pushed the canoe from another angle downstream but were unable to free it. 

Mr Pullen said: “The flow of water was so fast I kept being dragged down, I was washed downstream at one point, but I managed to get back."

Mr Wooton, from Keighley, told the coroner: "He couldn’t release his spray deck, it seemed to deteriorate pretty quickly, the waves were going over his head I was pulling him up under his arms. We were getting nowhere.”

Mr Pullen said they then decided to go for help.

Sergeant Stuart Grainger said there was no way the two kayakers would have freed Mr Baird-Parker on their own.

Coroner Robert Turnbull thanked the two kayakers and the emergency services for their efforts. He recorded a verdict of accidental death. 

Mr Pullen has dedicated a route of Arkle Beck, which he wrote for the UK Rivers Guidebook, to Mr Baird-Parker, saying he would not have wanted the accident to put others off paddling the beck.