Father's safety plea after teenage son in 'prime of his life' found dead in Sheffield canal

Alex Wilson's father Ian says simple safety measures could prevent more deaths at Victoria Quays
Alex Wilson's father Ian says simple safety measures could prevent more deaths at Victoria Quays
0
Have your say

The father of a teenager who died after falling into a Sheffield canal believes his son may still be alive had more been done to improve safety following a previous death.

Alex Wilson's body was found in the water at Victoria Quays in the city centre after he went missing on a night out in July.

Alex with his twin sister Emma

Alex with his twin sister Emma

His father Ian believes simple safety measures, like repairing broken lighting, installing a spring-loaded gate, putting up new signs and painting a white line along the canal's edge, could have saved the 19-year-old.

He is angry more was not done to prevent future tragedies after Adam Miles, aged 20, drowned in the canal following a Christmas party in 2015.

A coroner last year wrote to the Canal & River Trust, which is responsible for maintaining Sheffield & Tinsley Canal and the immediate waterfront at Victoria Quays, recommending safety improvements in the wake of Mr Miles' death.

The trust said an additional life ring was subsequently installed to complement safety measures including escape ladders, railings and bollards linked by chains that were already in place around sections of the canal.

Ian Wilson and his daughter Emma beside the canal in which Alex was found dead

Ian Wilson and his daughter Emma beside the canal in which Alex was found dead

But Mr Wilson said: "They've done the bare minimum to satisfy the order. If more had been done to improve safety he might still be alive.

"We're not asking them to spend a lot of money. The improvements we're suggesting could all be made for less than £1,000 in total.

"It won't bring Alex back or make it any easier for us but it could save someone else's life."

The trust has said it is 'deeply saddened' by Alex's death and has launched a safety review, which will be completed after an inquest has taken place.

Alex's family believe he may have been disorientated before he died due to the onset of hypothermia

Alex's family believe he may have been disorientated before he died due to the onset of hypothermia

But it said as this is a working quay, safe access must be maintained to and from the water for boaters.

The western approach to the canal is well signposted and better lit, with several shops and cafes along the waterfront.

But Alex's father believes his son, who was not familiar with the area, approached from further west, near the entrance to the car park on North Quay Drive.

Here there is little to inform pedestrians they are approaching a canal, and, when The Star visited after dark earlier this week, a string of lights were out making visibility very poor.

Alex with his sisters Emma and Sam

Alex with his sisters Emma and Sam

Alex's family say the torrential rain on the night he disappeared would have made it even harder to distinguish the cobblestone approach from the water, especially as they believe he may have been disorientated due to the onset of hypothermia.

They believe the profusion of hotels around the canal make safety measures even more imperative as many people staying there may not be familiar with the area.

They say a spring-loaded gate could easily be installed at that end of the quays without impeding access for boaters.

Two petitions calling for safety measures including luminous escape ladders and better barriers to be introduced at the quay have together been signed more than 2,400 times.

Alex was a computer science student at Sheffield Hallam University and his family, who say he was not a big drinker, believe he had a bright future ahead of him.

"He was in the prime of his life, with everything going for him," said his father.

Alex's family said he was in the 'prime of his life'

Alex's family said he was in the 'prime of his life'

"He had a good job, he'd just passed his driving test and he had excellent grades at university."

A Canal & River Trust spokeswoman said it only looked after the small section of land immediately beside the water's edge.

She said the trust was working with the Victoria Quays Management Company, which is responsible for the rest of the site, and with other land owners to investigate the circumstances around Alex Wilson's death.

"The site is lit, escape ladders, railings and life-rings are in place, and bollards linked by chains highlight the edge of the quayside. Although fencing off the waterfront may appear a straightforward solution, it’s sadly not that simple in practice given that this is a quay," she added.

"We do though have to maintain safe access to and from the water for boaters, and the safe rescue of anyone who may need help when they find themselves in difficulty.

"We are committed to ensuring that our waterways can be enjoyed safely; our charity works closely with the Fire and Rescue Services and supports the RNSS to raise awareness around water safety with the general public and we run an educational programme in primary schools across the country."

She added that the trust had been in touch with Alex's family regarding safety measures at the site.

A petition on the Change website, which was launched a month ago, has more than 1,400 signatures.

A separate petition on Sheffield Council's website, which was launched at the beginning of August and closes next Saturday, has been signed just over 1,000 times.