An inquest into the death of Ed Farmer – a student at Newcastle University – has heard the student had just a 2% chance of survival after being taken to hospital following a night of significant alcohol consumption – all part of a society initiation. The inquest also heard that the student would have probably survived had he been taken to hospital earlier. The actions of attendees at the initiation have since been criticised. Read on for the full story.
Ed Farmer was a student at Newcastle University at the time of his death, where he studied Economics. Prior to arriving at Newcastle, Farmer had been a pupil at a £31,000 per year private school in Rutland. He was nearing the end of term when he attended Newcastle University’s Agricultural Society’s annual initiation event on the night of December 12, 2016.
Farmer joined other first year students on the initiation event – which was a bar crawl around Newcastle City Centre, organised by the Agricultural Society. Attendees were told to arrive with ‘a 70cl bottle of hard spirits, money, no student ID, a Metro ticket, swimming goggles, lubricant and a Kinder egg’. There were around 30-40 attendees in total. The bar crawl involved visiting various bars and nightclubs in the area.
The inquest heard that the aim of this event was to see first-year students drink copious amounts of alcohol – while being egged on by older members of the society. To give an idea of the amount of alcohol consumed – at one bar alone, 100 treble vodka and orange shots were bought. This meant around three shots each, and this remember was just one stop on the bar crawl. While many consumed a significant amount, Farmer appeared to be affected the worst.
As if the barbaric initiation was already bad enough, it gets worse. At the end of the night, other attendees carried Farmer onto a Metro train, with the group heading to a student’s house to complete the initiation. The intention had been for student’s to have their head shaved, before drinking vodka from a pig’s head. Farmer was unable to do so, and was left on the floor – only to have his head shaved by an older Agriculture Society member at some point in the following hours.
The then-Chairman of the Agriculture Society, James Carr, 21, spoke at the inquest. He had been responsible for organising the event. While Carr said the intention had been to ‘welcome everyone to the society’, he maintained there was no requirement for members to turn up. He went on to confirm, when questioned, that the aim of the event was for ‘alcohol to be consumed quickly’.
Hours passed with Farmer remaining at the house, which Carr suggested was done so that Farmer would ‘be looked after’. Farmer at this point was loudly snoring, with Carr and others leaving him, believing him to be asleep. Yet loud snoring after heavy drinking is associated with an individual nearing either cardiac arrest or a heart attack. Carr admitted he had been ‘naive’ and ‘stupid’ for thinking Farmer was asleep. Farmer was found unresponsive at 5am, and was taken to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary at 5.45am on December 13, 2016.
Paramedics fought in vain to save Farmer, before he went into cardiac arrest as a result of alcohol poisoning. Farmer died with his parents in attendance. Paramedics noted that Farmer would have probably survived had he been taken to hospital earlier in the night. Nursing notes claimed that Farmer had been soaked with water and had soil on his back – details which have failed to yield an explanation.
After his death was confirmed, court documents confirmed some of his fellow attendees messaged one another to urge each other to ‘deny, deny, deny’ in police interviews. The actions of those at the event appear to be very inconsiderate, and contributed to the tragic death of Farmer. The inquest is set to continue.
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Initiations involving heavy drinking have been banned by Newcastle University. There is no doubting the actions of those in the Agricultural Society and attendees at the initiation event are mainly to blame. However some of the blame also needs to be shouldered by the University, who failed to clamp down sufficiently on initiation events. A life has been lost needlessly as a result.