Tributes to rowing coach who died falling from bike into river while training his crew

Bill Grant, pictured in 2011, coaching students.

Bill Grant, pictured in 2011, coaching students.

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a rowing coach who died after falling from his bike into the River Wear while training a crew.

Bill Grant was riding alongside the river on Saturday morning when it is thought he fell from his bike after becoming ill on a stretch between Prebends and Kingsgate Bridges.

Two of the coxed four he had been working with jumped from their boat into the river to help in the rescue effort, while students, including a medical undergraduate, out jogging also helped other passers-by in a human chain to pull the 67-year-old from the icy water.

But despite their efforts, and the help of the emergency services, Bill died.

The former jeweller, from Cleadon, leaves behind a wife, Jenny, and three children, Richard, 22, Catherine, 20, and Emma 19.

A post-mortem examination is due to take place later this week.

Bill’s love of the sport began when he was a student at Durham University and went on to spend more than 30 years with the city’s amateur rowing club, visiting its boat house near Old Elvert most days.

Martin Judson, chairman of Durham Amateur Rowing Club, said: “He was one of these types who volunteer for things and he was a team player and always asked how he could help.

“He was one of our boat wardens and we have around 80 to maintain and he would help with that and do the lion’s share to look after the boats.

“He always went to where he could be most useful and he was training to become one of our level three coaches, which would have made him one of three with the club.

“We’re not sure how we will fill his boots.”

During Saturday’s rescue effort, a paramedic borrowed another coach’s bike to cycle 1,000m along a path to get to the riverbank scene and the Great North Air Ambulance Service flew in to help, but nothing could be done for the club stalwart.