IT was an 18th birthday party that ended in tragedy.
Karl Maynard was enjoying the celebrations with his friends at a seaside house on Hayling Island.
But, when everyone had gone to sleep, he made the fatal decision to venture out for a midnight paddle on a kayak.
An inquest into the 24-year-old’s death heard he drowned and it is likely the kayak capsized.
The inquest at Portsmouth Guildhall heard Karl, of Stakes Road, Purbrook, and girlfriend Emma Ward were invited to the 18th birthday party of Amelia Hardy at her parents’ home in Salterns Close, Hayling.
At the party on July 10 last year, three couples set up tents in the garden to sleep in.
Miss Hardy’s boyfriend Terry Welstead had bought a kayak a few weeks beforehand and it was moored at a nearby slipway in the creek.
He and Ms Ward went on the kayak at about 9pm, but came back after 10 minutes and it was tied up with rope.
Shortly before midnight the couples retired to their tents.
At around 1am, Miss Ward said she was woken by her boyfriend.
‘He said he was going for a cigarette,’ she told the inquest.
‘I woke up at 4am and he was not there.’
Mr Welstead said: ‘I noticed the kayak had gone and the tide was out. I knew something was wrong.’
Mr Maynard’s body was later found on the mudflats.
The inquest heard Mr Maynard had drunk about four or five cans of lager.
Detective Constable Jamie Collins, from Waterlooville CID, said: ‘It’s clear that Karl had taken the kayak without anyone else knowing. He could not swim.
‘The chances are he had simply capsized.’
Coroner David Horsley said: ‘At some point, he’s gone over the side with tragic consequences.
‘I feel I have to conclude by saying he died as a result of a tragic accident.’
He added: ‘It’s the sort of thing lads do.
‘They get an idea in their head and don’t think about the consequences. I don’t think he’s to blame either.
‘It was completely unforeseen, just a tragedy.’
GRIEVING relatives said Karl Maynard’s life was taken from him at a time when things were finally on the up.
Just before the tragedy, Karl found out he had earned a place on a course at Highbury College.
Karl grew up in Liss, near Petersfield, but went to live with his aunt when he was 18.
Geraldine Warner, 45, from Maidstone, Kent, said: ‘Karl did not have a very happy start to life.
‘Against all the odds, he has just come to the point where he had everything to live for.
‘For the first time he had been accepted on a college course to do IT.
He had always wanted to do computer programming.
‘He had just spent a year with Emma. I spoke to him on the Friday and he was the happiest and most relaxed I have ever heard him sound.
Speaking after the inquest, Karl’s girlfriend Emma Ward, 20, said: ‘He was my first boyfriend and my best friend. I grew up with him.
‘There wasn’t anyone else and there still isn’t.
‘I don’t know what to do without him.’