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'Admirable' Cornish surfer drowned after being pulled into Hayle estuary whirlpool, inquest hears

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 18, 2014

Talented Jacob Cockle, pictured shortly after he won a Times Travel Photography competition. He died when he was sucked into a whirlpool at Hayle Estuary

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A daredevil photographer drowned after he was sucked into the deadly whirlpool he was trying to film - whilst wearing a plastic horse head prop, an inquest heard yesterday.

Thrill-seeker Jacob Cockle, 28, was attempting to capture pictures and video of the freak tidal phenomenon.

But as he ducked underwater with a waterproof camera to get close-up footage he was dragged down and sucked into a sluice tunnel.

He momentarily resurfaced but was pulled under again and despite being hauled out alive he later died in hospital.

The horrifying scene was witnessed by a friend who was filming with a second camera from the safety of the bank.

The two pals went to Carnsew Pool in the Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, on May 28 last year, an inquest in Truro heard.

Built in 1830 the pool was built to flush sand from the harbour - but its underwater channels are now best known for producing powerful whirlpools.

Recording a verdict of accident death, coroner Andrew Cox, said: "Jacob went down to the harbour with an expressed intention of recording the whirlpools there.

"I have seen the footage of him being sucked around the whirlpool while wearing the horse's head. There is no doubt that Jacob was a competent waterman.

"There is also no doubt that he was a risk taker. I accept however that those risks were not spontaneous or impulsive but were considered.

"He was an admirable young man who died doing what he loved."

Jacob visited the pool with friend and neighbour David Raine, 70, who ended up watching in horror as he was sucked down to his death.

The inquest heard Jacob took along a plastic horse's head as a prop and asked Mr Raine to film him swimming around for several minutes.

Mr Raine told the inquest: "I went down around 7:30pm and he was standing above the pool sort of beckoning to me - he was excited."

He added that Jacob then asked him to pass him a smaller camera which was attached to the end of an 8ft pole so he could reach it.

David said: "He asked me to pass that down because he wanted to do some underwater shots.

"He had a plastic horse's head that he wanted to put on. He wanted to put it on in the whirlpool and for me to film it from above.

"He disappeared and then came up on the other side of the vortex just momentarily, then went down again."

There was a sign warning people not to swim but it was ignored by Jacob, who suffered from a severe form of dyslexia which affected his judgement, it was said.

After his body was sucked into the 15t tunnel, Jacob emerged at the other end of the pool where Mr Raine was able to drag him to the side while a fisherman dialled 999.

Mr Raine and a passer-by attempted to revive him before RNLI lifeboat crews arrived and took over.

He was airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, where he was later pronounced dead and tests confirmed "strong swimmer" Jacob, from nearby Hayle, had drowned.

A toxicology report revealed he also had traces of party drug Ketamine in his system which may have impaired his cognitive ability.

Jacob's mother Carolyn Sheard, 60, told the inquest he was severely dyslexic which affected his judgement and short-term memory.

She said: "He was severely dyslexic. He had no concept of time but always did what he wanted to do. He never had any fear of danger."

Jacob's step-father Andrew Sheard told the inquest Jacob would regularly purchase props from charity shops to use while he filmed in the whirlpools.

Talented Jacob was highly regarded for his films and photos, including stunning 2011 images of two surfers being swept off a sea wall by 30ft waves and hurled into the sea.

He nearly died in December 2008 when he became trapped between a stone pier and a freak 30ft wave while surfing near Penzance, Cornwall.

In a statement after the inquest, Mrs Sheard said: "In his short lifetime Jacob lived life to its fullest. He achieved more than most people can only dream about.

"He saw no danger in either people or situations. Jacob was a free spirit."

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