AN INQUEST will look at the risk assessments and ‘set up’ at the Blenheim Triathlon event where a ‘kind and considerate family man’ lost his life in May.

Andrew Phillips, 56, died after getting into difficulties during the swim element of the three-part event in the Woodstock park shortly after midday on May 28.

He was pulled from the lake and taken to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where his death was pronounced three days later. The cause of death was given as hypoxic brain injury following cardiac arrest, caused by drowning.

An incident report prepared by event organisers Limelight, based on recollections by medics and lifeguards, suggested that Mr Phillips was pulled from the water 30 seconds after falling unconscious and transferred to the medical team within a minute.

At a pre-inquest review on Tuesday morning, senior coroner for Oxfordshire Darren Salter said the main inquest would focus on a number of issues, including the timings of when Mr Phillips was found and when he received various medical treatment.

“We are looking at broadly two main issues: discovery [of Mr Phillips] and CPR and medical attention,” he said of the question of timings.

Also likely to be considered during the inquest would be the set-up at the triathlon event and risk assessments in place.

Although the cause of Mr Phillips’ death had been given as drowning, Mr Salter said: “What we don’t know is what the cause of this incident was at the very beginning. There’s no evidence of Andy suffering a medical event.”

Witnesses were said to have suggested that his foot was caught in a rope from the buoy, although it was unclear whether that happened when he was being removed from the water.

Mr Salter made a number of directions from organisers Limelight, lifeguards Swim Safety and medical companies SportsMedics and Acute Ambulance and Medical Services, for video footage of the event and various pieces of paperwork to be sent to the coroner’s court office.

He told Mr Phillips’ widow, who attended the hearing via video link together with her solicitor Cathy Leech, and his sister who was in court in person: “[May I] pass on my condolences on the loss of Andrew, I think he was known as Andy, in these tragic and very much unexpected circumstances.

“Of course, we can’t change the great shock and loss but this process is here, required as a matter of law, to look into the circumstances and find answers to some questions.”

A date is yet to be set for the full inquest. Mr Salter said it was likely to be March ‘at the earliest’.

The coroner may consider whether or not there were any lessons that could be learnt from the tragedy.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

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