Man drowned in Clutha River

A Balclutha man whose disappearance sparked a search in the Clutha River and along its banks near the South Otago town drowned after falling into the river, a coroner has found.

Michael John Dippie (55) was last seen alive on the evening of October 29 last year. Mr Dippie was reported missing on October 30, 2011, after he failed to turn up for work.

Police spent several days searching Balclutha and in the Clutha River and along its banks.

His body was found partially submerged in the Matau branch of the river between Balclutha and Kaitangata on November 16.

In his written findings released this week, Otago-Southland Coroner David Crerar could not rule out the possibility Mr Dippie's death was self-inflicted.

"A suicide is a possibility, indeed even a probability, but while alternatives such as Michael Dippie falling into the river by accident exist, I must consider such alternatives ...

"there is every likelihood that Michael Dippie was so sufficiently affected by alcohol that his balance was compromised and his decision-making capacity could have similarly affected."

The possibility Mr Dippie fell into the water from the riverbank could not be excluded, Mr Crerar said.

Tests detected alcohol in his system, but no trace of any drugs.

The ability for a pathologist to determine the exact cause of death was compromised by the length of time Mr Dippie's body was in the river, and the coroner found the cause was "undetermined".

Mr Crerar found Mr Dippie died in the Clutha River on or about October 29 to 30, 2011, due to drowning. While adversely affected by alcohol, Mr Dippie entered the river either accidentally or deliberately and was swept away in the strong current before becoming lodged against a tree branch.