THE family of a man who died after falling from a bridge and drowning have paid tribute to him.
In a statement after an inquest into the death of Michael Stratton, they said he had ‘a heart of gold’.
After hearing two days of evidence, coroner David Horsley ruled Mr Stratton’s death as a tragic accident.
The inquest heard the 27-year-old had a lot of alcohol in his system when he went to the Jackie Spencer bridge in Gosport with friends.
Paying tribute, his family said: ‘Michael was a typical lad, full of life with the biggest heart of gold.
‘He was one in a million and we miss him so much.
‘Not a day goes past when we don’t think about him.
‘We want to thank all the members of the public who helped us.’
Previous evidence by witnesses has suggested Mr Stratton, from Gosport, might have been pushed into the water when he went missing on July 23 this year.
But giving evidence, the four friends who were with him on the day said he jumped off the bridge and was not pushed.
Mr Horsley said: ‘They had had a lot of drink and were horsing around and it seems quite possible that Michael could have been pushed in.
‘It’s clear that he has died pretty quickly after he went into the water. He might have been swimming but he was very drunk.
‘I think he has got into difficulty and drowning doesn’t take very long.’
A report by the pathologist showed Mr Stratton had 237mg of alcohol in his blood – three times the driving limit. He did not have cannabis in his system as previous evidence from witnesses had suggested.
The inquest heard that the coastguard searched the shoreline around the bridge but because of the tides and a weir up-stream of the bridge, they concentrated their search downstream.
The next morning, Mr Stratton’s mum Helen found his body in the lake near the bridge.
Mr Horsley added: ‘Michael was a young man, happy-go-lucky, not a saint and did silly things from time to time but he was not malicious. He had everything to live for.’
n In yesterday’s edition of The News, we reported the group of friends had been smoking cannabis including Steven Mills. Mr Mills said in his evidence he was not smoking cannabis. The News is happy to make this clear.