Man drowned trying to save dog from floods - wife

The Mad Brook
Trevor Furniss died during Storm Babet in 2023 [BBC]

The wife of a man who drowned attempting to help his family escape their home during Storm Babet has told an inquest she believes he went back into flood water to rescue their dog.

Company director Trevor Furniss's body was found in the Mad Brook near the Shropshire-Worcestershire border on 20 October last year. The inquest ruled his death was an accident.

His wife Deborah told the inquest that they and their nine-year-old son had tried to leave their house at Furnace Mill, near Cleobury Mortimer, as flood water rose.

After failing to get away by car, Mr Furniss then carried them back to their house before setting out again and being seen by neighbours getting into difficulty in the water.

'Water so high'

Mrs Furniss said there had been torrential rain on the day and her husband had attempted to take their son to primary school, but came back home after finding it shut.

She said her husband then told her they all needed to leave their home because of the flooding.

They planned to leave with their dog for Droitwich, where they had family, and set off in two cars.

But they had to return to the house where Mrs Furniss said “the water was so high it was coming through the ground floor windows".

Mrs Furniss said she did not ask where her husband was going as he set off on foot again, but presumed he was going to take one of the cars to get the family dog.

Katie Arnold, who runs a nearby livery yard, told the inquest she “saw a man in the flood, walking upstream against the current, in water up to his waist".

She called 999, as she saw the water rise up to his chest and he struggled against the current.

Ms Arnold said she also phoned neighbour Ed Brown who told her it was Mr Furniss “looking for his dog”.

Ms Arnold then saw him “go under for a second or two”. She said she believed his coat had got caught on something and he had been trying to take it off.

She explained she then saw him “holding on to a branch and was asking us to get help" before he “went under and didn’t get back up”.

Mr Brown said he saw Mr Furniss multiple times as he attempted to get back to his 4x4, despite Mr Brown warning him of the dangers.

'Knew it was bad news'

In delivering his ruling, deputy coroner Heath Westerman said: "Mr Furniss was determined he wanted to cross Baveney Brook to get his car or to get his dog."

"He chose to walk back to the vehicle to stay with the dog or to drive somewhere else.

"He knew the risks and he decided to take these risks," he added.

"His death was not preventable."

The dog, a German shepherd, was later found alive and well in the back of the Land Rover.

A search was carried out and 90 minutes later Mr Furniss was found just 20 metres from where he was last seen and confirmed dead by paramedics.

Mrs Furniss said when she saw blue flashing lights and fire officers running down her drive, she “knew it was bad news”.

She described her husband, who ran a medical business, as very caring and who always put the family first.

She also suggested a damaged bridge in Kinlet Road had caused more water to back up on their drive, forcing the family to attempt an escape.

But Worcestershire County Council, which is responsible for the maintenance of the bridge, told the inquest it “wouldn’t agree that the bridge made the flooding worse”.

In a statement following the inquest, the council said: "The concerns raised regarding debris in the water course were dealt with promptly by our highways team and the debris was removed before Storm Babet hit the county and caused the flooding."

"The repairs to the bridge were carried out by the County Council as soon as was practical to do so and the coroner confirmed during the inquest that the bridge was not a factor in this tragic accident."

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