THE deaths of two people in York's rivers should serve as a stark warning to those who drink too much in the city-centre, a coroner has said.

Megan Robert and Ben Clarkson died within weeks of each other earlier this year.

Coroner Jonathan Leach held their inquests yesterday and said their deaths were "a tragic end to two very young lives".

He said: "I'm holding both on the same day to hopefully raise awareness of the dangers both the River Ouse and Foss hold to anyone, whether they fall into the river or enter voluntarily, but particularly to those who have drunk large amounts of alcohol."

He held their inquests on the same day because the circumstances of their deaths were so similar.


York Press: Concerns grow for missing York student

STUDENT Megan Roberts had been playing drinking games and had been urged by a friend to go home in the hours before she drowned in the River Ouse, an inquest heard.

The 20-year-old, who was a fine arts student at York St John University, went missing on a night out with friends in January, and her her body was found in the water near Acaster Malbis almost six weeks later.

An inquest today heard Megan, originally from Wetherby, had probably entered the river after becoming disoriented after drinking for several hours at bars around York.

Friend Bethany Robinson said they had been playing drinking games as a group at the student union and they had visited different bars before meeting again at Popworld.

She said: "I didn't think she was drunk at the time. She was able to walk fine and conduct a conversation."

Another friend‎, Victoria Rose Iveson, said: "Megan was more drunk than I had ever seen her before.

"She was really, really drunk. I kept saying she should go home. But she was saying she was not ready to go home yet."

Post-mortem analysis of Megan's blood showed she was about three and a half times the legal drink-drive limit, with a blood alcohol level of 272mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

The inquest heard she had drunk four pints of cider and black in the student union bar, then jaeger bombs, strong cocktails ‎and spirits.

The hearing was told that Megan and her friends had been on a boxing club social night, and many of the group were dressed as superheroes. She was seen on CCTV leaving Popworld nightclub in George Hudson Street in the early hours of Thursday, January 23. She fell over a bike rack and ran past The Maltings pub towards the river. Her friends did not realise she was no longer with them and continued over Lendal Bridge into the city.

Speaking after today's hearing, Megan's mum Jackie Roberts said her death "highlights dangers of going out and having too much to drink", and she was glad the inquest had finally been heard.

The cause of death was drowning, with a contributing factor of the effects of alcohol, according to Home Office Pathologist Jennifer Bolton.

Recording an open conclusion, Coroner Jonathan Leach said: "‎Having consumed a large amount of alcohol by some means she entered the river. She probably fell in due to her senses being impaired.

"There is no evidence at all how she entered the river. In those circumstances, I'm left with no alternative but to enter an open conclusion."

On Thursday, Jackie will attend the launch of the Royal Life Savers Society UK (RLSS), latest safety campaign at the University of York, which is called Don't Drink and Drown, along with Dave Benson, whose York Rescue Boat charity she has backed.


York Press: York man Ben Clarkson, drowned in River Ouse March 2014SUBMITTED PIC (5577703)

MUSIC shop worker Ben Clarkson had drunk a small bottle of rum at home before going on his fateful night out in York, his inquest heard yesterday.

The 22-year-old, a former York St John University student, drank the rum mixed with Dr Pepper at his flat after work then carried on drinking with friends at The House of Trembling Madness in Stonegate, on the night of March 1.

The group later went to Fibbers in The Stonebow but Ben left alone. He never made it home, and his body was found in the River Foss on March 21, near Foss Bank.

His parents Andrew Wilson and Linda Clarkson were among those at yesterday's inquest. They heard that Ben had a blood alcohol level of 152 microgrammes per decilitre of blood, almost twice the drink drive limit of 80mg per decilitre.

The inquest heard a statement from his friend and fellow sales assistant at Banks Music in Lendal, Dean Wilby, that Ben had drunk a small bottle of Sailor Jerry's spiced rum mixed with Dr Pepper after his shift at Banks's Music shop in Lendal, before they continued drinking in the city centre.

In a statement read to the inquest, Ben's girlfriend Rachel Peatfield, with whom he shared a flat in Heworth, said she and Ben were due to go out together on the night he disappeared, but he had double booked himself and they had agreed to postpone their plans until the Sunday.

Ben's family declined to comment after the inquest, other than to praise North Yorkshire Police for their work and support.

Coroner Jonathan Leach recorded an open conclusion.


York Press:

CORONER Jonathan Leach has backed the campaigns to raise river safety awareness in York.

Speaking attoday's inquests, he said: "I am aware others are doing what they can to raise awareness, and hopefully that will be successful. In both cases, it is a tragic end to two very young lives."

The Press launched its Take Care campaign following the deaths of Megan and Ben, and also 18-year-old soldier Tyler Pearson, who died trying to swim across the Ouse.

Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan is also working with City of York Council and other local agencies to raise awareness of safety issues around the night time economy, with a number of improvements to riverside safety equipment set to be carried out within months.

Hard-hitting videos telling of Ben's, Megan's and Tyler's stories have also been produced, with the cooperation of their families.

York Press: TAKE CARE campaign