Retired council boss who drowned windsurfing in UK found in Sweden

Body of retired council boss, 65, who drowned after going windsurfing in 40mph winds of coast of Norfolk was found washed up 600 miles away in Sweden, inquest hears

  • Chris Bamfeld was seen out on his board on November 14 last year in Norfolk
  • His wife, Vanessa Bamfield, reported him missing at 5.17pm the same day
  • His body washed up this year on Stora Korno beach in Bohuslan, Sweden

The body of a retired council chief who drowned after going windsurfing in 40mph winds was found washed up 600 miles away in Sweden, an inquest heard today.

Chris Bamfeld, 65, who was a highly experienced windsurfer, was seen out on his board on November 14 last year at Hunstanton, Norfolk.

His wife, Vanessa Bamfield, reported him missing at 5.17pm the same day when it had got dark and he had failed to return to their home in Middleton, near King’s Lynn.

Chris Bamfeld (pictured), 65, who was a highly experienced windsurfer, was seen out on his board on November 14 last year at Hunstanton, Norfolk

Norfolk coroner’s court in Norwich heard how an extensive search was launched for Mr Bamfield involving six search and rescue teams, lifeboats and two fixed wing aircraft.

The search, which covered the entire area of The Wash, was called off on the morning of November 16 when it was assumed that he was lost at sea.

His windsurfer board and its red and white sail were later recovered in the North Sea around 21 miles off the Norfolk coast.

His body was washed up on April 6 this year on Stora Korno beach in Bohuslan, Sweden.

Norfolk Police were told by Interpol on April 20 that a body matching the description of Mr Bamfield had been found.

The inquest heard that DNA tests confirmed that the remains were those of Mr Bamfield.

He had recently retired as executive director of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council.

A post mortem conducted in Sweden gave his primary cause of death as drowning, but found that he had also had circulation issues.

Reports from Mr Bamfield’s GP confirmed that he had been diagnosed as having high cholesterol, but had declined statin medication as he wanted to treat himself through diet and fitness.

Norfolk area coroner Yvonne Blake recorded a conclusion of accidental death due to drowning while windsurfing.

She said that water found in Mr Banfield’s lungs had confirmed that he had drowned.

The search team for Chris Bamfield involved several rescue agencies including police, the RNLI, the coastguard and search and rescue all of whom searched extensively for three days

Ms Blake said: ‘Although he had slightly high cholesterol, it didn’t seem to be in the dreadful range. As I understand, it was not heart attack territory.’

She added: ‘He was going out doing something he enjoyed. He had been doing it for many years and had all the proper equipment.

‘It seems to me that quite a large search was launched and some time later he was found in Sweden and identified by his DNA profile.’

Speaking to Mr Bamfield’s widow and daughter who were at the hearing, Ms Blake expressed sorrow that it had taken nearly five months for his body to be found.

She said: ‘I am sorry about the loss and all the uncertainty. It makes everything worse.’

Mr Bamfield’s daughter Ashton said her father had gone out windsurfing at lunchtime, meaning he had plenty of daylight left.

She said: ‘I don’t want anyone to think he was being extremely reckless, because he was not reckless at all.’

Miss Bamfield described her father in a statement read to the inquest as a ‘devoted’ husband and father who was ‘full of care and love for family and friends’ as well as a proud public servant for 29 years.

She added that he had been looking forward to his retirement and had plans to travel the world with his wife and spend time with his family.

Miss Bamfield said: ‘He had a passion for sport. Golf and windsurfing were top of the list. He played golf most days and had played on courses all over the country and in Europe and America.’

She said that he had ‘recently rekindled his love of windsurfing’ and had windsurfed in many places around the UK.

Miss Bamfield noted that her father had been struggling with back pain and tiredness in the weeks before his death, but he shrugged off family concerns for his health, saying he was fine.

She said: ‘The day he went missing and those that followed were the worst days of our lives. The only comfort was knowing that he was doing something he loved.’

Miss Bamfield also thanked all those involved in the search for her father.

Public buildings were lit up red in King’s Lynn in honour of Mr Bamfield on the day of his funeral in June this year

She said: ‘The shock and horror of knowing that we would never see him again was indescribable. 

‘It’s an awful thing to have no opportunity to say goodbye to someone you cherish so dearly.

‘He was a truly amazing man, and we were so proud of him and all he achieved in his life. Our lives will never be the same without him. We miss him terribly.’

Detective sergeant Ollie Newell of Norfolk Police said CCTV pictures had shown Mr Bamfield leaving his black BMW car near Hunstanton Sailing Club and walking to the beach with his board while wearing his winter wetsuit.

He said that Mr Bamfield had gone out in 40mph south and south easterly winds which he described as ‘difficult conditions’.

Two other windsurfers who knew him later saw him sailing close to shore on the afternoon of November 14 where he was having difficulty making progress due to winds being disrupted by the coastline.

But they insisted that he was ‘not struggling as in distress’, said sergeant Newell.

Public buildings were lit up red in King’s Lynn in honour of Mr Bamfield on the day of his funeral in June this year. 

Council staff also held a minute’s silence for him.

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