Michael Thornton died in November after the car in which he was riding went off the road in Somerset, overturned and sank in the ditch.
Friends pulled him from the car and put him on top of the wreckage, but when paramedics arrived, they refused to enter the water, The Daily Telegraph reported.
"The ambulance arrived and I will not say what I think of health and safety regulations," West Somerset coroner Michael Rose told an inquest. "I was brought up in a country where men risked their own lives to save the lives of others."
Rose praised the actions of a police officer who dived into the ditch to help Thornton "but I think that stage it was too late," he said.
The coroner listed Thornton's cause of death as "accidental death, with a primary cause of drowning."
A spokesman for the ambulance service defended the paramedics, saying they had made "an appropriate risk assessment."
"The paramedics would have been unable to administer any higher standard of care or life support to the patient on an upturned vehicle, in the middle of the water, than that which was already being performed by the individual on scene and then by the police officer," the spokesman said.
Jordana Brewster on Paul Walker: 'He was an enormous presence in my life'
Benedict Cumberbatch's dramatic reading of R. Kelly lyrics is just what you need