County Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle has called for better riverside safety after an inquest last week heard that the death of Sope Peters was accidental.
Sope, who studied Economics at Hatfield College, fell into the River Wear shortly after midnight on Tuesday 29th October 2013.
The body of the 20-year-old was discovered five weeks later by emergency services and a post-mortem examination revealed the cause of death to be drowning.
Speaking at the inquest at Crook Civic Centre, Detective Sergeant Stephen Smythe said that Peters was last seen in CCTV footage outside Osborne’s bar and then heading down a set of steep stairs from Elvet Bridge.
DS Smythe said: ’It is almost certain he stumbled down those steps and entered the Wear over the low wall at the bottom of them.
‘I have tried to negotiate those steps and it is difficult even when sober. The lighting is poor and there is no hand rail.’
DS Smythe said that Sope was over the legal driving limit for alcohol but no drugs were found in his system.
Coroner Tweddle said that he would be writing to Durham County Council in a bid to improve the safety of the steps, which he described as ‘difficult and dangerous’.
‘It may be a small comfort to the family knowing that someone is hopefully going to have a look at the situation,’ he said.
Sope’s uncle Lanre Peters said: ‘He was an absolutely fantastic guy with a promising future ahead of him, which has just been tragically cut short.’
Dr Anthony Bash, Acting Principal at Hatfield, said ‘Members of Hatfield College were deeply saddened by the death of Sope Peters. He was a popular student who is greatly missed.
‘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.’
Photograph: Sope Peters
Published in Palatinate Online, Durham’s Official Student Newspaper – http://www.palatinate.org.uk/?p=47286 – 14th April 2014