A popular young Stone man drowned after suffering an epileptic fit and falling into the Trent and Mersey canal while on his way home from a friend’s funeral, an inquest has heard.
Kieran McColl was a strong swimmer, but the fit left him unable to save himself after he apparently missed his footing on the unlit towpath, the coroner said, ruling that the death was accidental.
The last words of a friend who dropped the 21-year-old of near Stone town centre were “”Promise me you won’t walk down the canal,” the inquest at Burton Town Hall heard.
“All his friends held Kieran in very great affection and were aware that he had a problem with epilepsy,” Detective Sergeant Adrian Webb, who investigated Kieran’s death, said. “They were concerned about him walking by the canal on his own at night.”
The inquest heard that Kieran, known to his friends as Lally, had attended the funeral of close friend Connan McLeod on May 8 and had then gone to his wake at a Stone pub. He then carried on drinking at other pubs with pal Simon Richardson, who described him to police as “quite drunk”.
After visiting another friend, the pair went to the Woolpack at Weston, then Mr Richardson dropped Kieran off in Stone town centre at 10.30pm – and asked him to promise not to take the canal route to his home in Thomas Avenue.
A group of young men spotted Kieran walking past Westbridge Sports Centre, and he was then recorded on the centre’s TV cameras walking on his own towards the tow path.
He was reported missing by his mother, Denise, the next morning and police divers found his body in the canal on May 13.
DS Webb said the police had taken Kieran’s disappearance very seriously because of his medical history, and because he was close to his mother and always stayed in regular contact with his family when he was out and about.
But the investigation into his disappearance had been impeded by a false rumour started on social media that a silver BMW had been spotted acting suspiciously in the town centre and Kieran could have been abducted. Police had to spend two days investigating the rumour before ruling it out.
“That is really to be condemned,” South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh commented.
Coroner’s officer Stephanie Mason said a post mortem found that Kieran had drowned. His lower lip was also badly bitten, suggesting he had suffered an epileptic fit, and he had a blood alcohol level of 116mg, one and a half times the drink-drive limit. He had anti-epilepsy medication in his bloodstream, but at a low level.
His wallet, phone and jewellery were found on his body and there was no evidence of anyone else involved in his death.
The coroner saidt he death was “an unfortunate accident”. “He had been drinking, which may have made him more prone to a fit and though he had taken anti-epilepsy medication it was sadly insufficient to prevent him having a fit,” Mr Haigh said.
Since his death, Kieran, who leaves his mother and father Denise and Lawrence, and two brothers, Sean and Travis, has been commemorated by the lol4lally fund launched by his friends, which is on track to raise £10,000 for epilepsy charities.
A memorial bench to him is due to be unveiled by the canal on September 6.