A fisherman who fell to his death in a north Devon harbour while trying to board his trawler died as the result of an accident, an inquest jury has decided.
Father-of-two Jamie Barbeary, 37, had been drinking in a nearby pub in the hours before he went to skipper the Olivia Belle on October 11 2009.
It is thought he may have slipped as he crossed the 3ft (one metre) gap from the harbourside to the vessel, hitting his head on a concrete plinth in the shallows 20ft (7m) below.
A post-mortem examination heard Mr Barbeary, who lived on the vessel in Ilfracombe, died as a result of head injuries but was still alive when he fell into the water. His lifeless body was found in the harbour the following morning.
A jury brought to an end a three-year wait for answers when they ruled the skipper died accidentally. They said alcohol and the gap between the quay and the vessel were both factors in the death.
After the hearing, Mr Barbeary’s partner, Jo Lucas, paid tribute to the man she said was considered “the best skipper in the Bristol Channel”.
She said: “He loved that boat, he loved fishing and he was devoted to his family. He had been on boats since he was five years old, and he was held in very high regard.”
The family also expressed its upset that certain details present in an independent report into the death were not given as evidence in court.
Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland recorded a verdict of accidental death.
A statement after the inquest, on behalf of the harbour masters, said: “This was a tragic incident involving a very well-known and popular member of our community. Our thoughts are with Mr Barbeary’s friends and family and we hope that this outcome can bring some level of closure to what must have been a very difficult time for everyone concerned.”