A man fell to his death from a hotel balcony on a break to celebrate his 50th birthday.
Darren Hardy died just hours after arriving with partner Mandy Edwards in Benalmadena in the Costa del Sol, Spain, on Sunday, June 11.
The 49-year-old, from Seaham, had been due to mark his milestone year on Thursday, June 15.
An inquest into his death, held in Crook, heard the couple had visited a few bars after arriving in the resort and had headed back to the Palmasol Hotel.
Ms Edwards had gone to bed and Mr Hardy had gone out to the balcony for a cigarette.
The hearing was told Ms Edwards was woken to news of the tragedy when her partner was found shortly after midnight on Monday, June 12.
He went to celebrate his 50th birthday and unfortunately he didn’t reach that.Ian Hardy
Senior assistant coroner Crispin Oliver said a post mortem examination found Mr Hardy had died due to a fractured skull.
He said information was gathered that the couple had been out for a few drinks before they returned to their upper storey apartment.
Sharron Carr, coroner’s officer, said the holiday had been due to last a week and confirmed Mr Hardy had consumed “quite a bit” of alcohol as they started their break.
Giving a report of her colleague’s discussions with Mr Hardy’s brother Ian, and then Ms Edwards, she said: “Mandy had gone straight to bed but Darren stayed up and went on to the balcony for a cigarette.
“The next thing Mandy was aware of was the police and hotel management were at her door and woke her.
“She had no idea of what had happened.”
Further discussions established that “Darren could take on board drink” putting him at eight on a one to 10 scale of being drunk.
Ian Hardy told the hearing: “He went to celebrate his 50th birthday and unfortunately he didn’t reach that.”
The inquest was told checks of the balcony found no structural faults or issues which could have played a part in the death.
Mr Oliver, recording a conclusion of an accidental death, said: “What we have is a situation where there’s no obvious cause or blame in regards to the balcony.
“It really does look to me that it’s one of these tragic mishaps.”
*Mr Hardy’s funeral will be held on Thursday at Christ Church in Station Road at 11am, followed by a cremation at Durham.
His family has asked for donations in lieu of flowers to go to the Great North Air Ambulance.