Warning to students as River Wear rescue follows deaths

Police press conference on the riverbank at Durham Amateur Rowing Club about the rescue of Durham University Student.

Police press conference on the riverbank at Durham Amateur Rowing Club about the rescue of Durham University Student.

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POLICE and university chiefs have issued a drink warning after a Durham student was rescued from the River Wear.

The 20-year-old, from Northern Ireland, was rescued from the river close to Durham Amateur Rowing Club after a passer-by raised the alarm around 1.45 am yesterday.

Police press conference on the riverbank at Durham Amateur Rowing Club about the rescue of Durham University Student. Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg

Police press conference on the riverbank at Durham Amateur Rowing Club about the rescue of Durham University Student. Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg

Police formed a chain to pluck the student to safety. He was taken to hospital for treatment but later released.

The rescue comes just a week after the body of 19-year-old Euan Coulthard was recovered from the Wear at Durham.

Euan was the third student to perish in the river in the last year. Nineteen-year-old engineering student Luke Pearce died in May, while the body of 20-year-old Sope Peters – who was studying economics – was recovered from the river five weeks after he disappeared after a night out with friends in October.

Assistant Chief constable Dave Orford said police believed alcohol had played a part in all four incidents, with officers reporting the man rescued yesterday had been ‘very, very intoxicated.’

“From what I believe so far, the reckless consumption of alcohol was a key feature of this incident,” he said.

“My appeal to the student body is to look at this fourth incident and absolutely reflect very deeply on how alcohol plays a very significant part in putting yourself at risk.

“Durham City is the safest university city in England from a crime perspective. I think the student body should reflect on not making it unsafe through their own actions.”

Police and crime commissioner Ron Hogg said he was due to meet with Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods to discuss what could be done to keep the river safe.

“A lot of it is around looking at responsibilty – personal responsibilty around drinking, collective responsibilty about looking after individuals and looking at what measures can be taken to promote more sensible drinks promotions in our clubs and bars.

“We have also commissioned a safety review of the river by Rospa and will look very keenly at the outcome.”

University chief operating officer Paulina Lubacz said: “The University would like to thank the member of the public who raised the alarm and the emergency services for averting a possible tragedy.

“We are working actively with partner organisations to address river safety.

“The university is also contacting all students to notify them about the incident and urging them to take proactive measures to ensure their personal safety.

“Our advice is: ensure you drink responsibly, do not walk home by the river at night, and do not walk home alone, and do not let your friends walk home alone.”

PC Simon Cutter was one of the first at the scene and described the rescue operation.

The student was at the bottom of a steep stretch of riverbank, he said.

“Luckily we had brought with us our flotation device. We managed to throw that in but it was quite a challenge because he had been in the water for that long.

“We formed a bit of a chain – we had two officers at the front, pulling on the rope, myself and one of my colleagues holding on to their belts to stop them going in and two people behind us, holding on to us. The fire and rescue service arrived, grabbed the end of the rope and we managed to pull him out.”