Death of elderly man spurs student demands for river safety measures

Calls for further safety measures along the banks of the Wear are increasing

The death of a 69 year old man who fell into the River Wear after he collapsed from a medical condition over the weekend has revived student cries for more stringent river safety measures.

Bill Grant, a member of Durham Amateur Rowing Club, died after suffering a suspected medical condition whilst coaching.

Although there is little evidence at present that the cold river conditions or exposure to the water caused the man’s death or even exacerbated his condition, it is clear that many students are jumping to this conclusion.

In turn, many are returning their focus to the issue of river safety, especially in light of the fact that Mr Grant was not intoxicated, in efforts to move authorities away from the perceived ‘victim blaming’.

Evan Penn, a first year, urged that the death showed that ‘[the Durham community] needs the river barriers’.

His thoughts were echoed by Milo Reddaway, who hoped that this death would ‘remind the police that trading harsh words about students isn’t helping anyone and that they should put more effort into making the riverside safer’.

Although most students are keen on additional river safety measures, two students from University College who wished to remain anonymous stressed the impracticality of constructing barriers around the entire river. Rather, they spoke in favour of putting up gates at strategic locations around the Bailey.

The death of Mr Grant, who was pronounced dead at the scene, comes just five weeks after the discovery of Euan Coulthard’s body in the river, following his disappearance on a night out.

A post-mortem is due to take place later this week.

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