By Henry Clare
The mother of a Durham student has launched an online fundraising campaign, in the hope of raising £1,500 to improve safety along the riverside.
Janis Penn told Palatinate last Friday that the tragic death of Euan Coulthard, who drowned in the River Wear last month, prompted her to act.
“As a mother of a Durham student and having watched and read recent news articles, I was totally devastated and heartbroken by Euan’s death. But to then find out that two other students have also drowned over the past few years is totally unacceptable. As a parent, I felt I needed to try to help.
“I would like students to feel secure in what was once described as one of the UK’s safest cities.
“I was looking to make a donation toward any fundraising appeal that was in place in the local area, but was unable to locate any campaigns.
“I therefore decided to act sooner rather than later in order to try to avoid any further tragedies, and set up the crowd funding appeal.”
A number of parents of students at the University have made donations to the appeal, and Mrs Penn believes that they share her concerns.
“I believe that most, if not all, parents will have similar concerns and that they would also welcome any amount of funds raised to be used towards the implementation of river safety measures.”
“No parent would want it to ever happen again, it’s a pointless waste of life and if just one person can be saved from a tragic accident it will be money well spent.
“An online petition calling for better riverside safety has attracted over 15,000 signatures, so there is definitely backing for this campaign.”
When the campaign ends in March, the money raised will be donated to the City Safety Group, which has been leading the response to the deaths of three Durham students in 14 months.
So far, the majority of the City Safety Group’s measures have been focussed on ensuring that drunken students do not walk along the riverside late at night.
However, Mrs Penn believes that targetting the safety of the river, rather than the city’s ‘drinking culture,’ is the most effective way to ensure the safety of students.
“My view is that Durham’s drinking culture is no different from that of numerous other univeristies and that other universities that have encountered similar tragedies have taken decisive action such as putting up fencing as a form of river safety measure, rather than blaming or ranting at students.”
Furthermore, Mrs Penn believes that, by donating, people can send out a very clear message to the council.
“I hope that raising money will demonstrate to the council that people want to make the riverside safer.
“Options for changes to the areas could include gates or barriers, blocking the key access points to the river that can be locked in the evening, especially next to some of the popular pubs and clubs that are located right next to the water.
“I understand that the local council and the University are accountable for maintaining a safe environment and all of the measures that they implement will of course help.
“However, I would hope to raise funds that would go above and beyond what the University and local authorities are able to provide but this will depend on how large we can make this fund.”
Although Mrs Penn would like to go towards improving safety along the river, she would be “willing to cede to the experts” when deciding the best ways to achieve this.
“I am happy for the money to go towards whatever is needed to imrpove river safety, this needless loss of life cannot continue”, Janis said.
“I understand that there are issues with the local community, but I am happy to be guided by the support group and those with more in-depth knowledge than me.
“I am sure that those people who donate are likely to want the money to be used as best as possible”.
To donate to Mrs Penn’s fundraiser, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/
Photographs: Joyce Uerpairojkit and Durham Constabulary