A businessman drowned at the wheel of his car hours after capsizing while canoeing in the Lake District, an inquest heard.

A hearing into the death of estate agent Alan Gough was told he had swallowed water after his canoe overturned while on a day trip to Ullswater with a friend.

The 57-year-old swam back to shore and appeared to have escaped unhurt – except for blood under one of his nostrils.

But hours later, as he drove his Mercedes back home to Walsall, near Birmingham, he lost consciousness at the wheel at the bottom of Kirkstone Pass and veered off into a drystone wall.

The managing director of Fraser Wood estate agents in Walsall was pronounced dead at the scene despite efforts to revive him by friend John Robinson, strangers and paramedics.

Assistant coroner for Cumbria Alan Sharpe recorded a conclusion of misadventure after hearing evidence from Mr Gough’s post mortem examination that he had died of secondary drowning.

Mr Sharpe said: “This is a condition where water enters the lungs but the person is not fully aware of what has happened. They survive the drowning but go on to drown on dry land at a later time.”

A statement from Mr Robinson was read out to the court by Mr Sharpe.

He explained how the pair had travelled to Ullswater on January 4 and arrived around 9am.

“We got the canoes out and paddled for a few hours before stopping for some bacon and egg sandwiches,” he said.

“About an hour later I saw him capsize about 50 yards from shoreline. He swam to the shore and I noticed he had a small amount of blood under his left nostril.

“I got him dry clothes and set back to the car park. We were paddling for around 40 minutes and it was hard because the wind was in our face.

“He told me in the car that he thought he had swallowed some water.

“We had been driving for around 45 minutes when the sat nav told us to turn left. He started to veer to the left at about 30mph. I thought it was too quick for the turning so shouted ‘Alan’ but I got no response so I braced myself for a collision.

“I looked over to check if he was okay. He was slumped to the right and his eyes were closed.

“I got him out the car with the help of another person who had stopped and started chest compressions.”

None of Mr Gough’s family attended the hearing at Kendal County Hall but a statement was read out on behalf of Mr Gough’s wife Tracey.

She described him as the ‘cleverest person I have known’, adding: “All of our friends would have wanted him as their phone a friend. He was extremely well thought of by all his friends and peers.”

Bloxwich-born Mr Gough joined the firm on leaving Queen Mary’s Grammar School at 18 and eventually became a co-owner of the business.

Speaking after his death, school friend and the best man at his wedding, Bill Green said: “It’s all very sad and distressing for everybody and the family. It’s far too young 57.

“He was a model citizen and did a lot of charity work. It’s a great loss to us all. Alan came from humble origins and rose up through the ranks of the organisation.”

Mr Green said his friend had loved the outdoors all his life.

“Other activities Alan enjoyed were bird watching and for a considerable number of years he was a very experienced deep water scuba diver,” he said.

“Alan was very active in a number of local community organisations including the Rotary Club of Walsall.”