Inquest into Exeter Uni Student Death Finds Drowning as Cause


An inquest into the death of University of Exeter student Ethan Philbrick has concluded that the student died by asphyxia – caused by drowning. Philbrick passed away on May 31, 2017 – having been celebrating the end of his exams. Another individual was lauded as ‘heroic’ for his attempts to save Philbrick, which ultimately would prove futile. This tragic case has been looked at in detail during the inquest, with the night in question examined thoroughly. Read on for the full story.


Philbrin opted to attempt to swim in sub-zero conditions [file photo]

Ethan Philbrick was a 21 year old Undergraduate at the University of Exeter. He was originally from Portsmouth, and was in his second year studying Mathematics. To celebrate the end of exams, he and some friends went out drinking and bowling. The group then travelled to a nightclub in a taxi, when Philbrick allegedly got out of the vehicle after ‘abruptly’ stopping the taxi. He would then walk off alone. By this time, he was over three times the legal drink drive limit.


What would happen next was witnessed by two individuals. Eyewitness accounts revealed that Philbrick was seen ‘deliberating’ over whether or not to enter the River Exeter near the ‘On the Waterfront’ bar. They said Philbrick was ‘clearly drunk’. He eventually jumped in, attempting to swim across the River. The eyewitnesses mentioned how he started swimming well, before coming into trouble. He began to panic, started calling for help, and flailed his arms, again told the eyewitness.




One eyewitness, named Stanley Richards, stated how he jumped into the water to try and save Philbrick, but was ultimately unable to do so. He mentioned how it was pitch black, and freezing. Richards’ actions was called ‘heroic’. While the area Philbrick was attempting to swim was a short stretch, it would have been incredibly difficult under the circumstances – the temperature of the water and the fact he was under the influence of alcohol. His lifeless body was pulled from the water the following morning.


Philbrick was a student at the University of Exeter


The inquest into Philbrick’s death was held last week. The inquest came to the conclusion that his death was caused by asphyxia via drowning. The verdict deemed the death accidental. The coroner mentioned in his summary that it was ‘unclear’ as to why Philbrick got out of the taxi.




This was a tragic case, as it always is when a young life is taken. This case reaffirms the importance of looking after friends, especially on night’s out that have involved alcohol or drugs. In many cases, these deaths are avoidable.





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