Man dies after 30ft bridge leap on birthday

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The Independent Online

A man celebrating his 21st birthday died after jumping 30ft from a bridge, an inquest heard today.

Mechanic Jamie Bruce was in high spirits having spent the night drinking with friends in Exeter city centre to celebrate his milestone.

It remains a mystery why the 21-year-old decided to jump from the bridge over Tudor Street but friends shouted at him to stop "messing around".

The inquest at County Hall, Exeter, heard Mr Bruce had in the past jumped from heights while drinking - having injured himself leaping from a balcony in Magaluf celebrating his 18th birthday.

Mr Bruce had been drinking heavily on the night of Friday June 19 last year and had consumed large quantities of lager, cider, champagne and spirits.

He and his friends had ended up in the popular Exeter nightspot the EX4 club before leaving at around 2am to head home to the St Thomas area of the city.

The inquest heard Mr Bruce was walking home with his younger brother Darren, then aged 19, and friends Zoe Johnson and Charlotte Barnes.

Darren Bruce said they had gone to several pubs that night before ending up in the club.

"EX4 contains a pub, club and strip club and we ended up in the strip club," he told the inquest.

"He was drunk but I have seen him worse."

Darren said he was walking ahead of his brother and had crossed the bridge and walked down some steps to the road below.

"When Jamie climbed over the rails I think he was confused that we were at the end of the bridge where we used to climb over the rails, instead of using the subway," he said.

"I saw him with his leg over the rails and he fell into the road. I dragged him from the middle of the road.

"I couldn't look at him because I thought he was dead."

Mr Bruce's fall was witnessed by Miss Johnson, who said: "I could see Jamie messing about on the bridge.

"He had his leg over the rails. I shouted at him to put his leg down but then he did it again.

"Darren dragged him out of the road because he was worried about Jamie getting run over by the taxis as they travel very fast.

"I could tell he was very seriously injured."

Her friend, Miss Barnes, said: "For a joke Jamie tried to climb on to the rails of the bridge, which were about waist height.

"Jamie got as far as putting his leg over the rails. I shouted 'Jamie, don't be stupid, come with me.'

"I then started walking in the direction of the stairs. I had my back to him when I was aware that he had jumped.

"Zoe screamed. I didn't see him jump but I did see him fall and he landed with a thump.

"Jamie was in good spirits. I think he thought he could jump and would be okay."

In the fall Jamie suffered extensive injuries, including fractures to his neck, ribs and pelvis, as well as other internal damage to his organs.

In hospital, he told police: "I fell off the bridge. I was hanging on, that's what my brother told me."

Pc Nathan Arscott, who interviewed him in hospital, said: "From talking to Jamie this was not the first time that he had fallen.

"On his 18th birthday he fell from a second storey balcony having been drinking to celebrate."

Five days after the fall Jamie underwent spinal surgery and while in theatre he suffered a cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated.

A post mortem examination found he had died on June 25 from multiple organ failure, caused by bronchial pneumonia, which was caused by multiple injuries sustained in the fall.

Friends and family filled the coroner's court to hear Exeter and Greater Devon Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland record a verdict of accidental death.

She said: "This is a very, very tragic case. I am satisfied he did not intend to kill himself and my verdict is accidental death."

In a statement released after the hearing, Mr Bruce's parents, James Bruce and Karen Herbert, warned young people of the dangers of drinking to excess.

"The family are very grateful for all the support from other family members and friends since Jamie's premature and tragic death," they said.

"We want, above all else, to remind young people that drinking responsibly can be safe.

"However, as we are all now painfully aware, excessive drinking carries excessive risk and can kill and will, in addition, harm the families that are left grieving."