Concerns over Orwell Bridge safety remain after 17-year-old Weronika Stepien’s inquest
PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 May 2016
A coroner has again raised his concerns about the potential for people to fall from the Orwell Bridge.
Nigel Parsley was speaking during the inquest for Weronika Stepien, a 17-year-old found in the river beneath the bridge just before Christmas last year.
And while he could not conclude she had definitely fallen from the bridge Mr Parsley said “in all likelihood she probably did”.
Weronika’s death came around a month after that of 20-year-old Archie Hall in the same area.
On the occasion of Mr Hall’s inquest Mr Parsley called for the authority to do more to prevent deaths from the bridge under rule 28 of the Coroner’s (Investigations) Regulations. They have 56 days to respond and the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star have launched a campaign, Stop the Bridge Deaths, to try and get more safety measures installed there.
At Weronika’s inquest at IP City Centre in Bath Street, Ipswich the court heard how the teenager, born in Poland, was found on the morning of December 20 when a dog walker in Orwell Country Park spotted her body.
A team from the coastguard carried out a mud rescue to bring her to land where she was pronounced dead at 12.55pm.
The inquest also heard how concerned friends who had gone to look for Weronika had flagged down an ambulance for assistance and been directed to police in Orwell Country Park.
Witness statements said while Weronika had made comments about killing herself to friends these had been off-the-cuff and not intended as serious.
They also revealed she had some disagreements with people she knew shortly before her death but Mr Parsley said these were typical of those seen in any group of young people.
However the court was also told Weronika, who had been living in Rose Hill Road Ipswich with her friend Charlotte Hoy, who was at the inquest, had overdosed on paracetamol twice in 2015 but had refused psychiatric help saying they had been impulsive decisions due to a build up of emotion.
Mr Parsley concluded while some statements referred to Weronika having falling from the Orwell Bridge there was no conclusive evidence of this, only that her injuries were consistent with a fall from height.
He said he could not reach a verdict of suicide because he could not be sure Weronika intended to take her own life.
Mr Parsley said: “My conclusion is an open conclusion because we really don’t know how Weronika came to be in the river. In all likelihood she probably did fall from the Orwell Bridge.
“There have been a number of inquests lately in relation to falls from the Orwell Bridge. I am not going to issue another regulation 28 report because I issued one recently but please bear in mind, for me personally I am very, very conscious the Orwell Bridge is featuring to frequently in deaths of this sort.”