Coroner: Drowned man likely stumbled into Wellington Harbour after Super Rugby final

Emergency services at the scene after Finbarr Clabby's body was discovered in Wellington Harbour. Photo / NZME
Emergency services at the scene after Finbarr Clabby's body was discovered in Wellington Harbour. Photo / NZME

A Wellington man whose body was found floating in the city's harbour died of drowning, but his death may also have been result of a heart condition and the effects of alcohol, coroner Tim Scott has found.

Finbarr Patrick Clabby died on July 5 last year, his body discovered by a family walking near the Queen's Wharf/Jervois Quay area of Wellington's waterfront.

The 39-year-old was from Ireland, but had emigrated to New Zealand about a decade before his death. He had worked as a quality control manager for Imperial Tobacco.

The night before his death Clabby attended the Super Rugby final at the Cake Tin and was drinking through the evening with friends.

A friend told police that between 5.30pm and 1.30am Clabby drank seven individual drinks and approximately two-thirds of a jug of beer, but did not comment on what Clabby might have drunk while watching the rugby.

Late in the evening bar staff also stopped serving Clabby alcohol, serving him non-alcoholic drinks only, Scott wrote in his findings.

Although he did not appear intoxicated on CCTV footage when leaving the bar, a post-mortem test showed he had a blood alcohol level of 301mg, six times the driving limit.

He believed Clabby was "significantly affected by alcohol", but not "grossly intoxicated or drunk".

"He was able to function, at least on a superficial level, reasonably normally."

After leaving the bar at 1.30am, Clabby was not seen alive again.

It was not known why he went to the harbour, but a friend said he sometimes went there to see if a waterfront bar was open.

Scott did not believe Clabby - who a friend said could not swim - jumped into the harbour voluntarily, and police had ruled out his being pushed.

He agreed with police that Clabby fell or stumbled into the harbour, Scott said.

A post-mortem found Clabby drowned, but there was also evidence of a heart condition and alcohol effect, as well as multiple minor skin injuries on the head, neck and elsewhere.

The pathologist agreed with him that Clabby had fallen into the harbour due to tripping of stumbling while affected by alcohol, or because of a medical event related to his heart condition.

Concerns raised with the coroner about lighting at the site where Clabby is believed to have entered the water were not likely to be a factor, but Scott asked Wellington City Council to review lighting in the area.

A review had been done and limited changes made, Scott said.

- NZ Herald

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