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Durham Student Newspaper Publishes Powerful Front Page Calling For Action After Student Drownings

Students and local authorities appear to be at odds over what can be done to prevent another tragedy.

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Durham's student newspaper, Palatinate, published this powerful front page at the end of last week:

Palatinate

The black-and-white cover referenced the deaths of three Durham students in the River Wear in the last 14 months.

Sope Peters, Luke Pearce, and Euan Coulthard are all believed to have fallen into the river after nights out drinking in the city.

The tragic events have resulted in prime minister David Cameron backing a petition calling for better security along Durham's river paths.

Richard James / BuzzFeed

However, the police and local authorities have blamed the deaths on a drinking culture problem among students.

Durham’s chief constable, Mike Barton, told the BBC: "I was incensed when I heard some representatives of the student body saying the answer is for more police officers.

"It is ludicrous that society is asking me to put police officers on the riverbank to stop bright young things falling in. What sort of world have we come to?"

Writing in an editorial entitled "Enough. Now, something has to change", Palatinate's editor-in-chief, Chris Somers, said:

Our front page on Thursday carried a straightforward message that I hope will have resonated with everyone: enough.

It's a message that has well and truly hit home after the discovery of Euan Coulthard's body over a fortnight ago followed by the dramatic rescue of a student from the river on Friday morning.

The deaths of Sope Peters and Luke Pearce were met with empty rhetoric and broken promises of improved riverside safety.

Three deaths in the Wear in 14 months. Three young lives lost completely unnecessarily. Enough is enough. Now, something has to change.

Somers said "the blame game has been in full swing", with the authorities calling for students to take more responsibility for their actions and students claiming those in charge are victim-blaming.

Richard James / BuzzFeed

"The argument for the installation of some sort of physical barrier and improved lighting along stretches of the riverside path is now impossible to ignore," he said. "And, sadly, it’s a measure that has yet to be acknowledged by the council, the police, or the Durham City Safety Group."

However he conceded that students need to accept that improved safety measures will only achieve so much.

"We must ensure we look out for each other," he said, adding that any attempt to curb alcohol consumption among students would not be effective.

He concluded by saying: "Enough is enough. Everyone, from the council to the University, to the student body must act to ensure that these all-too-familiar tragic events do not repeat themselves."

Last week, Durham students and the police expressed similar views to BuzzFeed News.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is set to conduct a review of safety in the city and will report back to the council soon.

Richard James is acting head of news for BuzzFeed Australia and is based in Sydney.

Contact Richard James at richard.james@buzzfeed.com.

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