Inquest: ‘Beautiful teen loved by all’ Gracie Leigh Gordon stumbled into flooded river and drowned

A “beautiful and bubbly” teenager “who everyone just loved being around” stumbled on a riverside path and slid down a steep bank into a river in Larne where she tragically drowned, an inquest has found.

By Philip Bradfield
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 8:41 am

Gracie Leigh Gordon, who was just 14, had been walking with friends on the bank of the River Inver on the night of November 26, 2019 when she slipped into the river.

Teams of firefighters and police searched frantically in pitch darkness along the river which was in “ferocious” flow due to heavy rain. The Larne teenager was rushed to hospital where medics worked tirelessly to revive her, but to no avail.

The inquest into her death took place on Tuesday, Wednesday and yesterday this week by videolink, due to Covid.

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Gracie Leigh Gordon from Larne who died after falling into the River Inver in the town in November 2019.

Earlier that evening Gracie’s mother, Danielle Gordon, told the inquest she asked her daughter to return by 9.30pm, and that Gracie had been in a good mood. As she left, she said: “Bye Mammy, love you.”

Mrs Gordon described her daughter as “a character” who was “always laughing and joking”. She said she was “absolutely beautiful and she didn’t know it, she couldn’t see how beautiful she was”.

Gracie was very kind and thoughtful and “was always very concerned with everyone else being happy,” she added. 

A male school friend of Gracie’s told the inquest “she just loved being around everyone and I think everyone just loved being around her”. Every time he saw her in school she was “happy and bubbly”, he added.

Gracie Leigh Gordon from Larne

On the evening of her death she met up with a female and two male friends and they walked along the river and sat on a wall and talked.

The boys left first and the girls left shortly after, but Gracie had taken some alcohol and was moving more slowly. As they were going downhill her friend offered to walk in front and take her hand but Gracie replied “no, I’ll be fine” and walked on, about a metre in front.

At that point, her friend said Gracie “slipped, grabbed a branch, fell flat on her back, let go of the branch and slipped down a hole in trees and bushes, sliding into the river and disappearing,” her movement having been “like she was going down a slide”.

She contacted the boys and they phoned the police and her mother at 9:10pm. The Fire Service arrived at 9.26pm and found her 16 minutes later.

Specialist firefighters used a line to access the fast flowing and flooded river down a steep embankment, bringing her back to land at 10.29pm, where they started CPR. Emergency Medicine Consultant Dr Eimhear Kearney said Gracie arrived in Antrim Area Hospital at 11.09pm but had suffered a heart attack before arrival and had no heartbeat. Resuscitation efforts continued until 11.25pm.

Constable Joanne Campbell, who later investigated the scene, said the area where Gracie fell into the river had no lighting and was pitch dark. “The area was very slippery and the river bank near to where the deceased was located was particularly steep”, she added.

A forensic test showed that Gracie had some alcohol in her blood and was probably mildly-to-moderately intoxicated. The Coroner concluded that Gracie stumbled whilst intoxicated, lost her footing and slid on mud on her back, sliding into the river. He said the postmortem found that she died due to drowning.

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