Thailand death of Middlesbrough urban explorer James Smith was accident, coroner rules

AN URBAN explorer who fell from a Thai hotel roof died as the result of an accident, an inquest ruled today.

It is believed that James Smith, 30, from Marton, Middlesbrough, described by his father John as an “adrenaline junkie”, may have been climbing the Novotel hotel at Bangkok Airport when he fell five floors to his death in August 2010.

Mr Smith had scaled landmarks such as the Angel of the North, the Transporter Bridge and the Shard in London and explored the Paris Catacombs as part of his hobby.

He was experienced at using ropes, caving and climbing and grew to love urban exploring – gaining access to deserted and sometimes derelict buildings to record them for posterity.

Just minutes before he died he had a chatty text conversation with his mother, Carol Smith, and was in his usual good spirits, the inquest at Teesside Coroners Court heard. He was in Bangkok on his way to Vietnam, where he was due to start a new job as a rigger.

He was last seen on CCTV taking the lift to the fifth floor of the hotel and going out of a fire exit to a balcony area.

His body was found by a hotel gardener the following morning. A British post mortem showed that he had sustained some hand injuries – meaning he had tried to stop his fall by grabbing the building.

The inquest heard evidence from a Thai security guard who speculated that Mr Smith had killed himself, but Teesside deputy coroner Tony Eastwood said there was no evidence of this and recorded a verdict of accidental death.

He said: “We are left with some degree of speculation. Was it that he attempted to explore the exterior of the hotel, or perhaps he tripped over the parapet of the building?

“All we can say is that attempts were made by Mr Smith to break his fall. The consequences were in no way intended.”

Mr Smith, who was single and lived with his parents in Marton in between working and travelling overseas, was always careful about safety even though he enjoyed taking risks, the inquest heard.

His friend Joanna Morris, a reporter for The Northern Echo, said: “When I heard the circumstances I immediately knew it would have been as a result of exploring the hotel.”

After the inquest Mr Smith’s parents described him as an “inspiration to everyone he met”.

Mrs Smith said: “I am really proud of him. I am proud of the effect he had on everyone he met. Everyone remembered him even if they had only met him once. He was inspirational. People even now are being inspired by him, his friends. He had such a warm, charismatic personality.”

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