Inquest to investigate fatal cliff jump tragedy

Inquest into cliff jump death


An inquest is due to open today (Tuesday 25th April 2006) into the death of a 23-year-old Leicestershire graduate who died following an ill-fated cliff jump, whilst on a trekking holiday in the USA.

John Hodgess from Hawthorn Rise, Groby, had graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in Management Science. As well as successfully pursuing his studies, John also helped care for his father who suffers from Motor Neurone Disease.

John was just five weeks into a round the world trip when tragedy struck on 11 September 2004.

The Coroner for Rutland and North Leicester, sitting at Loughborough Magistrates Court, is due to hear about the circumstances leading to Johns death. Before his departure to the USA, John had booked an organised Trailblazer 64 tour, booked through Trek America.

Part way through the tour, John had arrived at Antelope Point, Lake Powell in Utah. Whilst there, the Trek Leader, Eddie Ormond, organised a cliff jump for John and the other travellers. The jump was from a height of 70 feet into Lake Powell.

Blunt force head trauma

Following instructions from Ormond about the technique he should use, John jumped from the cliff into the water but failed to re-surface. His body was recovered from the Lake two days later. A death certificate issued by the State of Arizona recorded cause of death as resulting from complications of blunt force head trauma.

The organised cliff jump went ahead despite warnings from the National Park Authorities which were given after previous accidents in the Park involving fatalities. John was unaware of the warnings although the organisers of the Tour should have been. No safety equipment was provided to John before he jumped. The inquest may also examine amateur video footage of Mr Hodgess final moments as he entered the water.

The family's solicitor, Katherine Allen, from the Birmingham office of national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, said: "This is an extremely tragic case. John had just completed his university studies and had worked and saved hard to enjoy a round the world trip, before settling down to a career. John, who was not a risk-taker, had put his trust in the services of a professional tour guide. He undertook the cliff jump in the belief that there was no real danger involved."

His mother, Diane Hodgess, said: "We hope the inquest will shed some light into how this could have happened. John did not take risks; he was very methodical and thorough. If he thought there was an element of danger attached to something, he just wouldn't do it.

She added: "John had saved money since he was a child to afford the trip and had always dreamed of travelling. John was a fantastic son. He did more in his 23 years than most people do in a lifetime."

Can we help you? If we can, please visit our Illnesses and accidents abroad section.