A coroner has slammed Britain’s binge drinking culture after a promising young footballer fell down a 150ft cliff and drowned at a booze-soaked seaside resort.
Luke Griffin survived the plunge onto sand dunes but was “too incapacitated” to drag himself off the beach as the tide came in.
The 21 year-old club player of the year had been on a 12-hour drinking spree with teammates on the first day of an end-of-season trip to Newquay, Cornwall.
‘Happy-go-lucky’ Luke also snorted cocaine and smoked cannabis before he parted company with his friends and staggered alone through the streets, bumping into cars and starting fights with strangers.
He was found dead the next morning at the foot of a cliff he had probably fallen off in a drunken stupor as he tried to find his hotel.
Coroner Andrew Cox said his death was the latest in a series of similar tragedies in the Cornish resort which has become infamous as a binge-drinking mecca.
He said: “Luke is not the first young male who has died in Newquay from falling off the cliffs after drinking or taking drugs. In fact, I dealt with a similar death several weeks ago.
“I don’t want to have any more distressed friends or families mourning in front of me. It’s not going to change until the culture of drinking changes.”
The inquest in Truro, Cornwall heard how Luke, a builder and carpenter, went to Newquay in June last year with team-mates from Leonard Stanley FC in Gloucestershire.
They started drinking as soon as they boarded a minibus in Stroud, Glos., and arrived in Newquay at 3pm where they continued drinking.
Intoxicated Luke left the resort’s Central Bar around 9:50pm and staggered around the town picking several fights, one with a disabled man.
He was last seen heading back towards his accomodation with a fractured nose and blood pouring from his face.
A tourist at another hotel watched from his balcony as Luke staggered around before entering a private cliff-top garden.
He is thought to have wandered over the edge and tumbled between 100 and 150ft through vegetation before landing on the beach below.
Luke was found face down on rocks the next day by a dog walker with froth around his mouth consistent with death by drowning.
Tests found he was two and a half times over drink driving limit and there was cocaine and cannabis in his body.
The coroner said: “I think following the two assaults he had gone over the cliff edge.
“I think he’s then suffered the other injuries. These injuries incapacitated him, they have not killed him.
“While unconscious or partially unconscious, the tide had come in and Luke had tragically drowned.”
After the inquest Luke’s auntie Debbie Harrison, 42, said: “He had a big smile. That’s how we will all remember him.
“He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He loved football and going out with the lads. He was just a happy go lucky chap.”
His grandmother Angela Earwaker, 63, added: “He was just a loveable rogue. He was my first grandchild.
“He was kind, caring, compassionate and a hard worker. He had just got player of the year and we collected his trophy just after he passed away.”
Officials have been battling to improve Newquay’s binge-drinking reputation following several deaths and near fatalities in recent years.
In the summer of 2009 Andrew Curwell, 19, and Paddy Higgins, 16, fell to their deaths from cliffs in separate incidents whilst celebrating the end of their exams.
The deaths led to the introduction of a security plan for the resort, including the confiscation of alcohol carried by underage drinkers and police patrols on trains.
But in January last year the body of university graduate Oliver Doy, 26, washed up dead on a beach after he vanished during a boozy night out and slipped into the sea.
Verdict – Accidental death.
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