Teenager drowned in a ditch after a boozy New Year's Eve party

A teenager drowned after stumbling into a ditch as he walked home from a boozy New Year's Eve party, an inquest in Preston was told.

By Brian Ellis
Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 5:03 pm
James Macadam is thought to have stumbled and fallen in the ditch.
James Macadam is thought to have stumbled and fallen in the ditch.

James Macadam, 19, was found face down in the icy water more than 24 hours after going missing on a freezing January morning.

Police launched a huge search after the HGV mechanic, wearing just a thin shirt and jeans, failed to make it home from a celebration with friends in Lancaster.

Coroner James Newman concluded his death was an accident after hearing there were no signs of an assault and his mobile phone, wallet and bank cards were on his body when he was found in the ditch off Newlands Road, Morecambe on January 2.

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Cartmel Place where James was last seen on CCTV before he disappeared.

"It is my understanding that when someone falls into cold water at that time of year, with the water temperature reportedly very cold, they can enter into shock," said Mr Newman.

"James was wearing only thin clothing and (in those circumstances) they can lose consciousness very quickly. If any comfort can be gained from this, he probably knew very little about it.

"I genuinely believe that James simply lost his footing as he walked along, stumbled and went into the water."

The inquest was told that James, of North Road, Carnforth, had agreed to go to a last-minute New Year's Eve party with friends.

Witnesses said he was in good spirits seeing in 2021 and left to share a taxi home with a couple at around 5:45am.

The couple got out of the cab in Christie Avenue, Morecambe expecting James to continue home to Carnforth in the car. But he too got out of the vehicle at the same time and walked off without saying anything. That was the last time he was seen alive.

When he failed to return home on New Year's Day the police were informed. After an extensive search his body was found the following day, face down in a water-filled ditch running alongside a cycle track near to Trimpell Sports and Social Club and not far from where he was last seen.

A post mortem revealed that the most likely cause of death was drowning. Blood samples showed "profound intoxication" which, while not at a fatal level, was likely to have contributed.

DI Kathryn Riley said that according to witnesses James was "happy and chatty" at the party. It wasn't clear why he decided to get out of the taxi at Morecambe and set off on foot to walk to his home in Carnforth.

CCTV showed him entering Cartmel Place on foot at 5:59am and then breaking into a jog before disappearing out of sight.

DI Riley said she had examined the banking of the stream and found no obvious disturbance to suggest there had been an altercation with anyone. She concluded there was "no third party involvement."

Coroner Mr Newman concluded: "It was an absolutely tragic accident on all the evidence.

"James was a young person who had suffered through nine months of lockdown and social isolation. He went out with some friends and (later) made the decision to get out of the taxi and start to walk.

"He stumbled into a water ditch beside a cycle path behind Newlands Road, where he was discovered on January 2.

"I believe he passed away very shortly after he was last seen."