Rescue team formed ‘human chain’ to pull Durham Uni student from river

Police credit ‘reckless consumption of alcohol’ as a key feature

Courageous members of the police and fire service formed a “human chain” to pull a Durham student from the River Wear in the early hours of this morning.

Police officers arrived at the scene minutes after being alerted by a passer by who heard shouting while walking by the Amateur Rowing Club. In their bid to save the 20-year-old they had to “clamber down an 8 foot drop”.

Durham Constabulary have praised the efforts of those involved in the rescue and have drawn special attention to “hero officers” such as PC Simon Cutter who risked their own safety in order to save the Northern Irish student.


PC Cutter, pictured by Durham Constabulary 

This afternoon PC Cutter described the actions of himself and his colleagues.

He said: “We got him to put his arms through the flotation device and hold on to it, close to his body, so we could haul him out. We managed to anchor the rope to a tree nearby in case we went in.

“We formed a bit of a chain – we had two officers at the front, pulling on the rope, myself and one of my colleagues holding on to their belts to stop them going in and two people behind us, holding on to us.

“We managed to slowly pull him up. The last thing we wanted was for him to slip through, fall backwards and his head be submerged. It was only at this point the fire and rescue service arrived, grabbed the end of the rope and we managed to pull him out.”

This latest incident occurred just weeks after the death of Euan Coulthard, who fell into the River Wear after a night out with friends.

In recent weeks efforts have been made to improve river safety, with reviews into river safety being conducted.

Euan Coulthard disappeared after a night out last Wednesday

Speaking after today’s incident, Assistant Chief Constable Dave Orford appealed to students.

He said: “From what I believe so far the reckless consumption of alcohol was a key feature in this incident. My appeal to the student body is to look at this and reflect very deeply on how alcohol plays a very significant  part in putting yourself at risk.

“I think from my perspective and the police perspective the key message to land is personal responsibility, you put yourself at risk, you put the emergency services at risk and you can actually take large steps yourself to be aware of putting yourself in that position.

“Enjoy the university, enjoy your time here but don’t put yourself at risk.

“Durham city is the safest university city in England, I think the student body should reflect on not making it unsafe.”

In light of comments by police about the rescue of the student, who was described as “extremely intoxicated,”, a message was sent to students from the Acting Vice-Chancellor and Durham Students’ Union President.

“We cannot over-emphasise the seriousness of this incident. According to the Police the student is very lucky to be alive.”

“Ensure you drink responsibly. Do not walk home by the river at night. Do not walk home alone, and do not let your friends walk home alone.”

After tragedy was averted this morning, Durham University and Durham Students’ Union pledged dedication “to working with our partners to put in place a number of safety measures.”