Grieving mum says York’s river safety project is long overdue

Megan Roberts, who died after falling in the River Ouse
Megan Roberts, who died after falling in the River Ouse
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The mother of a Leeds student who died after falling in the River Ouse says council leaders in York have been forced to act to improve safety after “neglecting it for years”.

Jackie Roberts, whose daughter Megan, 20, went missing last January before her body was found six weeks later in the river, has been campaigning to make revellers more aware of the dangers of York’s rivers and bridges.

She says heavy drinking on nights out is just part of the problem that resulted in three young people drowning after falling into the Ouse or the River Foss in a matter of weeks.

But she said City of York Council also has a responsibility to make sure everything possible is done to prevent future tragedies.

The city council has allocated £100,000 to introduce improvements on York’s two major rivers, including better safety equipment and new fencing, though it says “increasing awareness and personal responsibility is central to preventing future tragedies”.

Mrs Roberts said: “There seems to be a delay in the priority work the council promised to undertake on the river, starting, I believe, with improvements to existing life saving equipment and adding further equipment to help save lives. I believe York now has a new council leader and hope that he will prove to be someone with a positive approach who is prepared to listen and support the community.”

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

Mrs Roberts said: “I think I was in shock for months after the trauma of losing her in such a sudden, tragic way. The pain is never going to go away, it’s physically debilitating at times and it isn’t getting any easier to live with.”

Steve Waddington, assistant director of Housing and Community Safety, said: “There is ongoing multi-agency work around river safety including regular inspection programmes, river-edge maintenance and river safety awareness. While I have the deepest sympathy for Ms Roberts and her family, increasing awareness and personal responsibility is central to preventing future tragedies and we will continue our ongoing work to educate people about the dangers of the rivers.”

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