The parents of Tilton on the Hill 20-year-old, Ed Farmer, who died after a university initiation-style bar crawl, say they hope his death will act as a warning to other students about the dangers of drinking heavily.
A four-day inquest heard this week that the first-year economics student at Newcastle University, died in December 2016, from the ‘toxic effects’ of drinking too much alcohol.
The hearing at Newcastle Civic Centre was told that around 30 members of the Agricultural Society toured the city with ‘older students’ ordering a round of 100 triple vodkas to be shared between the attendees.
Ed, a former Oakham School pupil who played cricket for his local Tilton and Lowesby club, was found unresponsive in a hallway following the outing, which involved students drinking vodka from a pig’s head, bobbing apples from a bucket of urine and having their heads shaved.
The inquest he was more than five times over the legal drink-drive limit, which caused a cardiac arrest and led to ‘unsurvivable’ brain damage.
Ed’s parents, Jeremy and Helen, and brother, William, attended the hearing and the family released a statement afterwards in which they described his death as ‘utterly needless and wasteful’.
Reading the statement to reporters, Jeremy said: “We have found it acutely painful to learn about the complete lack of understanding of all the students who accompanied Ed during that fateful event on December 12, 2016, of the dangers associated with drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in a short period of time.”
He thanked those students who gave evidence about the fatal bar crawl but added: “We have, however, been left completely underwhelmed and frustrated by the apparent inactivity of Newcastle University student union to want to get to the heart of problem of student initiations.”
The family’s statement called on universities to clamp down on student initiation activities like the one which claimed their son’s life and make them safer.
“We can only hope that lessons can be learned but it is devastating to us that it is at such cost,” Mr Farmer continued.
“We hope they introduce a positive and interactive approach with students at their induction to university of the potential of drinking rapidly and to excess of that drinking alcohol can be fatal, and those affiliated to university will be taught first aid.
“We urge that those who can effect change do so in honour of Ed’s memory.”
To emphasise their clamour for change, the family said they allowed harrowing CCTV footage to be shown at the inquest showing Ed lying unconcious in the Newcastle Metro before being picked up by his friends and carried.
Mr Farmer said: “We have had to make the most difficult decision on the disclosure of CCTV taken during the events of that evening in order to try as best we can to effect a positive cultural change.
“The CCTV images are not how we want Ed to be remembered but we have made this decision trusting the images will be used to bring home to students and universities the very real dangers of the practice of initiations.”
Recording a narrative conclusion at the inquest, coroner Karen Dilks ruled: “Ed died due to the toxic effects of an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time and in part because the inherent risks of doing so were not known.”
Speaking after the inquest, Dr John Hogan, the registrar for Newcastle University, said that Mr Farmer’s death was a ‘great tragedy’.
He said: “Since Ed’s death, we have already made a number of changes to the way we raise awareness among our students about the risks of alcohol and how they keep themselves and their fellow students safe.
“However, having listened to the evidence, we will be reflecting carefully on all that we have learnt at the inquest and looking at whether there are areas where we can improve on what we do.
“On behalf of the university, I would once again like to express to Ed’s family and loved ones our deepest sorrow about the loss of a young man of such potential, who surely had a bright future ahead of him.”