‘Warning signs not good enough’ says coroner after teen’s river death

RIVER SCENE: Tributes left for Jordan Roberts, below, near where he died on the River Wear.
RIVER SCENE: Tributes left for Jordan Roberts, below, near where he died on the River Wear.
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A CORONER will urge a landlord and council chiefs to review their warning signs on a stretch of the River Wear where a teenager drowned.

Jordan Roberts, from Downhill, drowned after getting into difficulties in a deep section of water near Finchale Abbey on September 8.

Jordan Roberts

Jordan Roberts

An inquest into the 17-year-old’s death heard how he, older brother Callum, 19, and friend Robert Scott, were throwing a ball to each other as they walked in the river up to their knees.

However, near a beached area, the depth dropped, with the hearing told the river can become as deep as four metres and the flow quickens near a “bomb hole”.

Despite the efforts of Mr Scott, he could not be saved. Police divers recovered his body the next day.

The inquest, held in Crook, heard there were signs up both near to the abbey and river warning the water was dangerous to enter, but Mr Andrew Tweddle highlighted others put up by Durham County Council, which were only about four inches across.

He said: “What I plan to do is write to both landowners to ask them to reconsider and review the sign situation, but put particular emphasis on the local authority, because it appears to me its are not fit for purpose.

“I think it’s an important part of the procedure to look at that safety side as well.

“If there’s a part of the river that is particularly deep, then the notice needs to be reviewed.”

The inquest was told the alarm, raised by Mr Scott with the help of a fisherman and a couple who had been near the scene, brought the police and fire service to the river shortly after 5.20pm.

A police helicopter and a search and rescue team were also called in, with the search called off at 11pm. Detective Constable Nigel Dowd, of Durham City CID, told the hearing Northumbria Police’s dive team found Jordan in 2.1metres of water close to where he was last seen, just minutes after the search resumed in the morning.

A post-mortem examination confirmed Jordan, of Kidsgrove Square, died due to drowning and found no drink or drugs in his system.

Mr Tweddle gathered details of various warning signs and depth of the river, from water bailiff John Potts.

Mr Potts said he had not spotted Durham County Council notices on the banks and said he told fishermen using the river to take a stick with them to check the depth as they went.

Mr Tweddle said the fact Mr Potts, who lives on the site and works on the river, could not recall the council signs or recognise them from a photo, showed how they were not prominent.

Terry Collins, corporate director of neighbourhood services at Durham County Council, said: “We have carried out an assessment at this location alongside the River Wear and are in the process of ordering new safety signage.

“Together with our partners we have asked the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to undertake an independent review of safety in the city centre, which will include the riverside.”

Mr Tweddle said Mr Roberts had drowned and recorded a conclusion of accidental death.