TRIBUTES have been paid to a rowing coach who died after falling into the River Wear in Durham City.

Experienced oarsman Bill Grant, from, Cleadon, Sunderland was coaching a rowing crew when he is believed to have suffered a medical episode, lost control of his bicycle and plunged into the freezing waters.



The Northern Echo:


Emergency services at the scene. Photo from Twitter: @KeithRwc

The 67-year-old retired jeweller fell in the water near Kingsgate Bridge at around 8.25am on Saturday. Shocked crew members from the Durham Amateur Rowing Club pulled to the side of the river and helped pull him out.

The father-of-three was taken to hospital by helicopter in a serious condition, but died shortly after arrival.

Last night son Richard, 22, paid tribute to his father. He said: “Dad was a big presence in our lives, as well as in so many others.

“His sudden death was a shock to us all. Since retiring, he has spent many hours each week coaching, rowing and maintaining boats at Durham Amateur Rowing Club, as well as being an active member of several committees within Durham Diocese. He will be sorely missed."

Mr Grant was the rowing club’s boat warden, an umpire and is a member of the British Rowing Rigging Forum.

He started coaching as a teenager, rowed successfully for Durham University Boat Club for three years, and was a member of DARC’s highest placed Head of the River Race crew ever.

Martin Judson, Durham Amateur Rowing Club chairman, said: “It was a real shock because I had been speaking to him about an hour before this incident.
“He was fine. He was his usual cheerful, enthusiastic self.

“It was totally and utterly without warning. He gave his time very freely and was very generous with it. He maintained about 80 of boats so we have got big boots to fill. He was training for the highest level of coaching.”

An inquest to establish the circumstances surrounding Mr Grant’s death is expected to be held by the County Durham coroner.

Chief Inspector Sue Robinson  praised the efforts of those involved in the rescue attempt.

She said: “Unfortunately, the outcome was really sad, but we give massive, massive thanks to everyone who was first on the scene and started administering first aid before the ambulance got there.

“Everybody was really, really, upset by what has happened.”

Mr Grant, an active member of Cleadon All Saints Church, leaves his wife, Jenny, son Richard and two daughters: Catherine, 20, and Emma 19.

  • Pay your tributes to Mr Grant below.