Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Coroner rules UK man's death accidental

An embankment approximately 6 metres high that UK national Sean O'Connor fell down. Photo / Belinda Feek
An embankment approximately 6 metres high that UK national Sean O'Connor fell down. Photo / Belinda Feek

A coroner has found the death of a United Kingdom man -- who became disorientated after a night out drinking and fell to his death down a cliff -- was accidental, and has ruled out recommending any fencing be erected in the area.

Sean Anthony O'Connor, 33, died after stumbling down a 6m embankment at the end of Anglesea St, Hamilton, and coming to rest on Hillsborough Terrace during the early hours of Saturday March 6, last year.

A coroner's inquest was held into Mr O'Connor's death last month in Hamilton which his UK-based parents, Kevin and Marie, also attended.

The inquest heard Mr O'Connor spent the night out drinking with friends he met at his accommodation, The Microtel Backpackers on Victoria St, but became disorientated after being asked to leave Good Home bar on Hood St.

At the time, coroner Gordon Matenga said why he travelled south along Anglesea St, instead of north, will remain a mystery but testimony from those he had been drinking with concluded that he was very intoxicated.

When he reached the end of Anglesea St, Mr O'Connor entered the property of 1 Angelsea St, walked about 25m down beside the house, climbed over a raised garden bed before losing his footing, grabbing hold of a portable compost bin and falling to his death down an approximate 6m cliff on to the road below.

He was found by two students just after 1am.

During the inquest, Mrs O'Connor said the area where her son died was a "death trap" and urged that fencing be erected to prevent a similar death in the future.

They accepted that their son was drunk and disorientated after being in Hamilton just 36 hours.

But in his findings released today, Mr Matenga found Mr O'Connor's death was accidental.

"Even though it was the middle of the night, there would have been sufficient light for him to be aware that the ground was dropping away sharply. Sean was where he should not have been and made a serious error of judgment. While I can accept that a fence would have prevented his death as suggested by Mrs O'Connor, I do not accept that erecting a fence is necessary."

Mr Matenga said the circumstances of Mr O'Connor's death were "unique and are unlikely to be repeated" and declined to make any recommendations.

"Sean would not have been aware that a short distance further along the bank became an almost vertical crib retaining wall. Sean has lost his footing and fallen to the roadway below causing a number of injuries which led to his death."

- NZ Herald

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