A MAN died after diving into a North-East river for a swim while drunk, despite the efforts of his friend and a bystander to save him, an inquest heard.

Gary Simpson, 26, of Danby Road, Stockton, was pulled from the river by police divers nearly fours after he was last seen alive, at 2.30pm on August 31, last year.

He jumped into the river near the town's Millennium Bridge after he had been drinking on the riverbank with friends.

Teesside Coroner's Court heard how the swim turned to tragedy when Mr Simpson started to struggle midway across the Tees and slipped under the water.

His friend, Lee Birmingham, dived in to the cold water to and managed to get Mr Simpson's head above the water.

However, despite his efforts to swim his friend to shore, he was unable to hold on to Mr Simpson, who slipped from his grasp.

Mr Birmingham said: "I decided to dive in the third time he went underwater. I tried to get him to the shore, but he wasn't paddling his legs to help.

"He looked conscious, but he just wouldn't kick his legs and I couldn't hold on to him any more."

Call centre worker David McPhee saw what was happening from his office and went to help.

He said: "I was aware that he (Mr Simpson) had gone under and that was the last time I saw him. I helped Mr Birmingham to a buoy before diving down and trying to find Mr Simpson.

"Everything was brown and I couldn't see a thing."

Pathologist Jan Lowe said that the cause of death was drowning.

He said a combination of seven pints of beer, or ten shots of spirits, mixed with Diazepam and cannabis, were likely to make Mr Simpson feel uninhibitated, with the side-effect that he would have poor co-ordination and balance.

Teesside Assistant Deputy Coroner Tony Eastwood recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.