A WARNING has been issued following the inquest into the death of a 21-year-old man who died while swimming in a reservoir on a summer’s day.

‘Fit and healthy’ Ben Heney had been drinking in the afternoon and was the equivalent of three times over the drink-drive limit when he decided to cool off in Ogden Reservoir, Barley.

An inquest at Burnley Magistrates Court also heard that Mr Heney had taken cocaine at some stage before his death, though coroner Richard Taylor said it was hard to ascertain exactly when that had been.

Bosses at United Utilities, which owns the reservoir, said his tragic death will now serve as a sombre reminder of the ‘very real dangers’ of entering reservoirs.

Shop worker Mr Heney had been drinking during the day with friends on July 7, when temperatures reached close to 20 degrees with clear blue skies. The inquest heard that he then went to visit a friend and colleague, AJ Mahmood, in the shop that they both worked in.

Giving evidence at the inquest, Mr Mahmood said that his friend had been in a hyper mood that day and also added that he could ‘smell the alcohol’ on his breath.

He said: “We decided to go for a drive and I parked close to the reservoir. We went for a walk and then sat down.

“I knew he had been drinking but I didn’t know how much. He had a bottle with him but I didn’t let him drink it while he was in my car.

“We had been chatting when he decided he wanted to cool his feet off. He stood up and went over the metal fence before taking his shoes off.”

Mr Mahmood said the next thing he knew, Mr Heney had disappeared from sight.

He said: “I was shouting at him to get out, but then he was gone. I can’t swim but I went in to try to help.”

Walkers in the area were then alerted to what was going on and the emergency services were called. A four-hour search for Mr Heney’s body which involved mountain rescue teams, the fire service, police and divers ensued.

Recording his conclusion, Mr Taylor said: “The family have said to me that this was a tragic accident – I can’t disagree with that.

“Benjamin Heney died on the 7th of July 2019 at Ogden Clough reservoir having been submerged under water. This was an accidental death.”

Paying tributes at the time friends described him as a ‘genuine, all-round lovely lad with a heart of gold.’

A spokesperson for United Utilities said: “Our deepest condolences go to the family of Benjamin Heney. His tragic death serves as a sombre reminder of the very real dangers of entering reservoirs and our message is very simple, please don’t take the risk, keep out of the water.

“As well as dangerous hidden machinery under the surface and no lifeguard on duty, the water is so cold it can literally take your breath away and force your body into a spasm known as ‘cold water shock’.

“Tragically, in the last two years, four people have lost their lives swimming in reservoirs in the North West alone. As a responsible company, and the owner of around 200 reservoirs across the region, we run annual safety awareness campaigns highlighting the risks.

“This year we commissioned a hard-hitting new play - 60 Seconds of Summer - that toured schools and brought young people face-to-face with the catastrophic consequences of swimming in reservoirs.

"We have also been trialling new ‘throwlines’ at 20 locations around eight reservoirs across Greater Manchester and Lancashire which we hope can buy valuable time and help people keep their head above the water until firefighters arrive to help. In the meantime, our message, as always, is: please stay safe and stay out of reservoirs.”