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Tributes paid to teacher who died in Newton Abbot river tragedy

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: December 27, 2013

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Father-of-two Nick Mutton, who taught at Cockington Primary School, Torquay, slipped into slipped into the River Lemon, in Newton Abbot, and died after being swept away

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Moving tributes have been paid to the primary school teacher who died trying to save his beloved dog from a swollen river.

Father-of-two Nick Mutton, who taught at Cockington Primary School, Torquay, slipped into slipped into the River Lemon, in Newton Abbot, and died after being swept away.

One of his step-daughters is believed to have witnessed the tragedy.

Mr Mutton’s sister-in-law Mary Mutton, who had known him for for over 35 years, said: “The dog had fallen into the river. He was trying to get him out but unfortunately slipped and there was nothing for him to get hold of.

"He had managed to get to the dog but slipped and the river was so treacherous there was nothing he could do."

Sadly, emergency services were unable to revive Mr Mutton, 46, once they had dragged him out of the water.

She said: "He was in the river for quite a long time. By the time they managed to get him out of the river he was dead and they were unable to resuscitate him.

"He didn't stand a chance in the river. He was a tall strong chap but was unable to get out - there was nothing he could do.

"He was in the prime of his life. He was very well thought of and he was in a happy place.

"He loved being a teacher and the kids seemed to love him too."

Mr Mutton had been visiting Asda in Newton Abbot with his family when his dog ventured into the river near to the store at around 11:15am on December 24.

Three police officers and several firefighters managed to retrieve him from the river using dry suits and throw lines before CPR procedures were carried out.

He was rushed to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and fought for his life for several hours but was pronounced dead later in the afternoon.

His dog managed to escape from the water with help from a member of the public.

Mr Mutton has two sons, aged 19 and 20, who live in Bristol with their mother and were due to see him after Christmas. He was living with his partner Kathy and her two daughters in Newton Abbot and has three brothers.

Neighbour John Smyth, 72, said he had known Mr Mutton for around 10 years and had seen him on the day of his tragic death.

He said: "I saw him everyday walking his dogs - he loved them and treated them like his children.

"I saw him on Christmas Eve at around 11am leaving his house with his three dogs like he did most days.

"He wished me a Merry Christmas and we had a bit of a joke and then he left for his walk.

"Soon after that I heard all the helicopters - it's so tragic.

"He was a truly lovely man - no one had a bad word to say about him.

"He was a very well-liked teacher. He taught my granddaughter years ago and she loved him.

"The incident is truly tragic but made so much worse by the timing."

Mr Smyth said; "I've since heard that his eldest step-daughter witnessed the incident.

"No one could have survived the river that day, I've never seen it so bad."

Local resident Martin Bignel tweeted that the River Lemon, which runs at the end of his road, had been "about 7ft higher than usual" on Monday evening as a result of the persistent rainfall.

A dog walker said he saw the drama unfold. He said: "The police came running down saying somebody was in the river. I saw them on the footbridge getting the man out.

"The air ambulance landed on the field across the river and they were here for some time."

A spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: "On arrival at the scene crews requested the attendance of the coastguard helicopter to assist with the rescue of the person and confirmed one dog had been rescued by members of public."

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: "It's going to be a coroner's investigation supported by the police into what we perceive to be a tragic accident."

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  • Speedy10039  |  December 27 2013, 2:20PM

    We are told time and time again to stay away from swollen rivers and the sea when stormy conditions are about but we never learn.Very sad but unfortunately avoidable.

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