AN inquest into the death of Highbridge man Dean Tate has concluded he drowned accidentally.

Father-of-seven Mr Tate, aged 40, from Highbridge, was last seen in the early hours of Saturday, February 24 after a night out drinking in Burnham-on-Sea.

In the following weeks a large scale search was carried out by the emergency services and members of the public with police divers, helicopters, boats and search parties trying to trace Dean.

It was not until Saturday, April 21, that a sailor discovered his body washed up on Stert Island off the coast of Burnham.

Mr Tate’s inquest was held at Somerset Coroner’s Office in Taunton on Tuesday, October 9.

Senior Coroner Tony Williams read out statements from witnesses who saw Dean prior to his disappearance.

The night started out as Mr Tate and his brother Darren Clayton going out for a casual pint after work, attending the Somerset and Dorset pub, playing pool and darts, arriving just before 7pm.

Mr Clayton said: “I decided to head home at 9.30pm as we had work the next day at 8am, but Dean decided to stay out. He seemed in good spirits when I left.”

The inquest heard that Mr Tate continued to talk with people at the pub, becoming increasingly intoxicated and was described as acting a bit ‘out of character’ but ‘in control’ before heading to the Old Pier Tavern at 10.45pm where he continued to drink and socialise.

He was next seen at Burnham’s TA8 where he spoke with licensee Harris Beaumont who knew Dean and said he had a history of being a bit of a nuisance when drunk and had been kicked out before for making 'inappropriate comments', but said in his experience Dean had never been violent.

Mr Beaumont said Dean was ‘swaying’ when he left at 2am.

Dean was next spotted on Marine Drive by a couple who offered to help him get home as he appeared to be ‘staggering and confused’ but he refused their help.

PC Mark Patterson said CCTV evidence showed a figure walking toward The Promenade that could have been Dean, and said his phone signal cut out at 3.15am.

Once Dean’s body was recovered a forensic post mortem was carried out but due to the time the body had been in the water, a toxicology report to find out his alcohol levels or evidence of cannabis could not be carried out.

However, the pathologist was able to test for several other drugs, of which no evidence was found, and concluded that the cause of death was unascertained.

After hearing all the evidence, coroner Tony Williams told the members of Mr Tate’s family: “I know it must be frustrating as a family you want answers, and despite this being a thorough investigation, there are some questions we will sadly never know the answer to.”

Mr Williams concluded Mr Tate’s death was accidental and the cause of death was drowning.