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Tragic death of offshore worker

PUBLISHED: 09:17 11 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:37 06 July 2010

A HIGHLY-RESPECTED offshore engineer hanged himself on a North Sea oil rig after he was arrested and charged with drink-driving, an inquest was told.

Paul Foster, a 53-year-old grandfather from Oulton Broad, killed himself on the Noble Scotts Marks rig, less than a day after he started work there.

A HIGHLY-RESPECTED offshore engineer hanged himself on a North Sea oil rig after he was arrested and charged with drink-driving, an inquest was told.

Paul Foster, a 53-year-old grandfather from Oulton Broad, killed himself on the Noble Scotts Marks rig, less than a day after he started work there.

An inquest at Great Yarmouth on Thursday heard that the father-of-two, who had 29 years' offshore experience, had appeared distressed after he was arrested for drink-driving on December 11 and spent a night in police cells.

However his wife, Carolyn Foster, said that as her husband prepared to leave for the oil rig a week later from their home in The Glade, he appeared his usual happy-go-lucky self and told her he would be home in time for Christmas.

Despite Mr Foster's employers, Baker Oil Tools, reassuring him that his job would be secure if he was convicted of drink-driving, he was found dead at 12.30am on December 20 last year - hours after arriving at the rig in the Chiswick field.

Describing Mr Foster's return after his arrest, Mrs Foster, his wife of 27 years, told the hearing: “He was very distressed over it, spending the night in a police cell.”

But, she said, as Mr Foster prepared to leave on December 19: “He seemed absolutely fine, gathered his paper work together, his bags were packed. He kissed me goodbye. He said if it all goes well I will be back for Christmas.”

Mrs Foster said that before her husband left, his company had informed him his job would be safe.

“It was not a big deal. It would not affect his job,” she added.

A statement was read out from Alan Jennison, who was Mr Foster's boss at Baker Oil Tools in Great Yarmouth.

He said Mr Foster was a highly-experienced tool specialist of 29 years' experience who had declined to work in an office as he loved working offshore.

Mr Jennison said: “He was good at his job. He was a professional.”

The inquest heard that there were no signs that Mr Foster appeared distressed in the hours he spent on the oil rig before he killed himself.

Norfolk Coroner William Armstrong recorded a verdict of suicide while in a distressed state of mind, and told Mr Foster's family that it was one of the saddest cases he had ever heard.

He said: “He was a highly skilled person, highly thought of. He was a loving husband, a loving father and a loving grandfather.

“Clearly Paul decided to bring his life to an end this way. For some reason the drink-drive matter was playing on his mind and I think he just flipped.”

Mr Foster left a wife, two daughters, Laura and Michelle, and grandson Theo.

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