IT began with an audacious dare for just £10.

But fun turned to tragedy when a man died after trying to swim in a freezing cold lake.

The family of Austin Clark, 28, wept yesterday as a Southampton inquest heard how emergency crews searched in vain for him in the lake at Lakeside Country Park, Eastleigh.

Mr Clark went to the lake on December 9 last year with his partner, Michelle Bowles, 44, and friend David Baude, 31.

Mr Clark consumed a pint and a half of cider before Mr Baude challenged him to enter the lake.

PC Kelly Drodge read a statement prepared by Ms Bowles recalling Mr Baude saying: “I bet you a tenner you can’t swim across there and back”.

Mr Clark replied: “OK, I’ll do it” before stripping down to a T-shirt and jogging bottoms.

He ran into the water as Ms Bowles filmed him from the waterside on her mobile phone.

He started to swim as the others stood on the bank shouting “Go on, go on.”

Halfway across he started waving his arms and shouting “I can’t breathe” before disappearing from sight. Ms Bowles initially thought he was “mucking about” before realising the seriousness of the situation.

Mr Baude waded in after him but retreated because it was too cold and they called 999.

The inquest heard how officers PC Manns and PC Ilderton waded in to search for him.

Emergency crews eventually arrived. They pulled him from the water more than an hour later but he died in Southampton General Hospital.

Pathologist Sanjay Jogai told the inquest how Mr Clark had alcohol twice the legal driving limit in his bloodstream.

He said the combination of intoxication and the shock of immersion in cold water triggered major spasms, reducing blood supply to his heart and brain and eventually causing him to lose consciousness.

He put this as the main cause of death rather than drowning.

Recording an accidental death determination, coroner Keith Wiseman said: “The important thing is that immersion in cold water is very dangerous for anyone.

“The overwhelming sensation is of sadness that such a young life has been lost in this way.”