THE girlfriend of Ben Clarkson has welcomed a river safety summit held in York just days after his body was found in the Foss.
Ben, 22, went missing after a night out with a colleague in Fibbers in the early hours of March 2, and his body was recovered from the River Foss on Friday.
His death is the second tragic river fatality in the area this year, following 20-year-old Megan Roberts, who was found in the Ouse several weeks after disappearing on a night out.
Speaking ahead of last night’s meeting – organised by North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan with representatives from City of York Council, North Yorkshire Fire Service, Pubwatch, York’s universities, students’ unions and voluntary groups – Ben’s girlfriend Rachel Peatfield said anything that could help prevent another river death should be considered.
Rachel said education on the risks was vital, and she hoped she could help lead future meetings in Ben’s name.
She said: “We don’t want the associations just to be the boy who fell in the river.
“Ben was such a kind, caring person and I think this is what he’d want – if we can educate people about the dangers.
“That’s a lot more practical than putting fences all around. York is so historical it would ruin how picturesque it is.
“Getting home is a crucial part of the night, but you don’t start the night thinking about the danger of getting home.”
Rachel hoped students’ union bars could “put signs up advising people to plan their way home as it is so important, just as important as planning what to wear or where to go”.
This idea was echoed by those who attended the meeting.
Rachel said she and Ben’s family were now concentrating on the future, including a fitting funeral for Ben.
She said: “Every day is different.
“It was a shock when we found out but we’re keeping ourselves busy now, trying to give Ben the best send-off we can.
“I’m trying to keep myself busy because I think if I suddenly stop, my days would be empty and it would hit me like a tonne of bricks.
“I went to help formally identify him. That was horrible, very upsetting.
“That was a really tough day.”
Letters were read to the group from Rachel and Jackie Roberts, Megan’s mum, who both urged better education and river safety to prevent future tragedies.
Participants at the meeting said there was “a vast amount of fantastic work” being done by all of the organisations, but more could be done.
Suggestions included trying to tackle cheap alcohol and “pre loading”, but the meeting agreed that while CCTV would assist with investigations into a tragedy prevention would be better than response.