Boaters mourn free spirit of the waterways

The boat on the Oxford Canal at Banbury where a man and his dog were found dead
The boat on the Oxford Canal at Banbury where a man and his dog were found dead

A boating couple have paid tribute to their neighbour Ian ‘Spike’ Mason, who tragically died on board his canal boat alongside his dog Milly after it is suspected he breathed in toxic fumes from an on-board appliance.

Christopher and Joy Wren, whose boat Wren’s Nest is moored next to Mr Mason’s barge Samara on the Oxford Canal at Swan Close, said the 62-year-old was known in the Banbury boating community as a “friendly and helpful” man.

Mr Wren said: “When my wife broke her arm he used to come to help her lift things on board the boat, he was very helpful.”

Mr Wren said the boating community knew Mr Mason as ‘Spike’ and would remember him as a free spirit who lived life in his own way.

“He was a character; perhaps he didn’t conform to the outward forms of society, but every boater in Banbury would know him,” he said.

Mr and Mrs Wren saw Mr Mason sitting in his chair on Samara at around 9.30am last Thursday when they walked past on their way to Banbury.

On their return Mr Mason was still in the same position and his Staffordshire Bull Terrier Milly, who would normally greet passersby, was nowhere to be seen.

Mr and Mrs Wren called the emergency services and firefighters boarded the boat and tested the air for toxic fumes.

Both Mr Mason and Milly were found dead on board.

An inquest into the cause of death has been opened at Oxford Coroners’ Court, but it is likely Mr Mason died after breathing in toxic fumes from a solid fuel stove, probably due to a blockage in the vents.

Watch manager John Callaway of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “It is our advice that all such equipment is professionally installed by a qualified technician and serviced regularly.

“We also recommend that both smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are fitted and tested weekly.”

Mr Mason’s brother Shaun is also a boater at Cropredy, but the family originates from Kent.