Call to improve Durham riverside safety following death of university student (From The Northern Echo)
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Call to improve riverside safety after death of Durham University student Sope Peters
A CORONER is calling for action to keep drinkers safe after a Durham University student drowned during a night out.
Andrew Tweddle voiced concerns over the dangers of steep steps and low riverside walls in Durham at the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Sopefoluwa Peters, known as Sope.
The body of the 20-year-old was found in the River Wear five weeks after he vanished.
He spent the evening drinking with friends on October 29 and was last seen on CCTV outside Osbornes Bar, near Elvet Bridge, just after midnight.
The economics student, who lived in the city's Highgate, had been drinking with friends at home before heading out at 11pm.
He said he was going to Klute nightclub, near Elvet Bridge, and would meet them later.
At the inquest in Crook today (Wednesday, April 9), Detective Sergeant Steve Smyth, of Durham Police, said the last signal on his mobile phone was at 12.08am.
It is believed Mr Peters, who is from a Nigerian family living in North Virginia in the United States, may have gone down a steep set of stairs in the poorly lit alley next to Klute.
At the bottom is a wall just 69 cm high running alongside the river.
DS Smyth added: “He appeared to be extremely intoxicated and he was on his own at all times.”
An extensive search was carried out by the emergency services before his body was found on December 8.
A post-mortem did not reveal any injuries and tests showed he was twice the drink drive limit.
Mr Tweddle recorded a verdict of accidental death and said he was concerned about the low height of the river wall and that the steps where “dangerous and difficult.”
“I recognise that Durham being what it is, a quirky place with its own nooks and crannies, but a balance needs to be struck,” he said.
“I am not suggesting it is anybody’s fault but clearly after hearing the evidence that I have I believe that it should be brought to the attention of the local authority.”
Mr Peters’ uncle Lanre said: “He was an absolutely fantastic guy with a promising future ahead of him, which has just been tragically cut short.
“I walked the steps and thought how can someone with this level of alcohol negotiate these steps. If anything can be done about it that would be good.”
Dr Anthony Bash, acting principal at Hatfield College, Durham University, said: “We marked Sope’s passing with a memorial event to celebrate his life.
“In order to recognise the hard work of the Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team that helped the Police to search for Sope, the students at Hatfield College have raised about £1,000 for the charity.”
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