Published On: Sat, Jul 21st, 2018

Why DID three respectable young Britons fall to their deaths at the same Majorca block of flats?

Share This
Tags

A short walk away from the neon lights and pounding music of Magaluf’s bustling main strip, the tired-looking, sand-coloured block of flats is eerily quiet at 3am. Every now and then, the raucous chatter of young revellers making their way back to nearby hotels punctures the silence.

‘Stay safe, lads!’ shouts John Channon, as one particularly rowdy group of drunken teenage boys stumbles past.

Do they take heed? Probably not. But John’s gentle admonishment is painfully heartfelt, because it is from here, in the small courtyard where he stands, that the 67-year-old’s own teenage son plummeted to his death just over a week ago.

A few hours earlier, Tom had sent his dad some photos — ‘group shots on the beach, being young and free,’ says John. They were the last carefree images he saw of his son.

Thomas Channon's father John and uncle Stephen O'Brien at the spot where he died. From here, there appears to be a ‘garden’ with vegetation spilling over a low wall  - and giving the impression that on the other side of the wall lies a solid ground...

Thomas Channon's father John and uncle Stephen O'Brien at the spot where he died. From here, there appears to be a ‘garden’ with vegetation spilling over a low wall  - and giving the impression that on the other side of the wall lies a solid ground...

Thomas Channon’s father John and uncle Stephen O’Brien at the spot where he died. From here, there appears to be a ‘garden’ with vegetation spilling over a low wall  – and giving the impression that on the other side of the wall lies a solid ground…

‘Although it’s comforting to see, it’s also tragic because that should have been allowed to continue,’ says John, who is determined that his journey to Majorca will yield some answers about his son’s needless death.

Bright, popular and hoping to go to university to study economics, 18-year-old Thomas Channon was the third young Briton to have fallen to his death here, in the grounds of a private apartment block called Eden Roc, in just four months.

Thomas Hughes,The boys’ deaths follow that in April of Scottish bar worker Natalie Cormack, 19, who fell as she tried to climb railings and around a gate leading into the flats, where a friend was living, after losing her keys.

With more balcony falls in Majorca and neighbouring island Ibiza since then, Tom’s is one of a rapidly rising tally of accidents — mostly involving alcohol — that have caused death and serious injury among young holidaymakers this summer.

It has led to renewed calls for better safety awareness among the hordes of Britons heading off on holiday to places where cheap booze (‘£5 for two cocktails and a shot,’ shouts one of the many promoters on Magaluf’s main street) is as much of a draw as the sea and sand.

Exactly what did happen to Tom remains a mystery. He was on holiday with a group of friends from Barry, South Wales, who had travelled to Majorca for a celebratory holiday after their A-levels, a rite of passage enjoyed by countless teens.

... But beneath the vegetation is a seven-storey drop to pavement level. Did both boys believe — at night, in low visibility and probably after a beer or two — that they could just hop over the wall and take a short cut to their hotel?

... But beneath the vegetation is a seven-storey drop to pavement level. Did both boys believe — at night, in low visibility and probably after a beer or two — that they could just hop over the wall and take a short cut to their hotel?

… But beneath the vegetation is a seven-storey drop to pavement level. Did both boys believe — at night, in low visibility and probably after a beer or two — that they could just hop over the wall and take a short cut to their hotel?

After watching England play Croatia in the World Cup, Tom — ‘the sensible one,’ says business consultant John — became separated from his friends.

Possibly unsure of directions, he somehow found his way to Eden Roc, a 1970s apartment block from where, across what appears to be a ‘garden’, you can just make out the whitewashed annexe of Hotel Florida, where Tom was staying.

From the front, Eden Roc appears to be only five storeys high. But, in fact, the building has 12 storeys, seven of them below pavement level.

Natalie Cormack a bar worker who fell to her death from a hotel Balcony in Magaluf Spain.

Natalie Cormack a bar worker who fell to her death from a hotel Balcony in Magaluf Spain.

Natalie Cormack a bar worker who fell to her death from a hotel Balcony in Magaluf Spain.

Vegetation spilling over a low wall in the entrance courtyard gives the impression that on the other side of the wall lies a solid patch of shrubbery when, actually, there is a 70ft drop to stony ground below.

Did both boys believe — at night, in low visibility and probably after a beer or two — that they could just hop over the wall and take a short cut to their hotel?

‘If you fall from this height, you don’t stand a chance,’ says John, looking down at the spot where his son was discovered by a gardener at 9.45 the next morning.

John, who has two other sons, aged 17 and 22, at home with his wife Ceri, a midwife, has come here late at night, with Tom’s uncle Stephen O’Brien, in search of answers.

He is desperate to understand what happened to his son and why, after the first death here, nothing was done to prevent another tragedy.

He is well aware of what draws young holidaymakers to resorts such as Magaluf, where the bars start serving alcohol after breakfast and don’t stop until dawn.

But he is concerned at how needless Tom’s death was.

Tom wasn’t trying foolishly to climb between balconies or leap from a great height into a hotel pool. It seems likely that he was just trying to get back.

‘You get some people who come out here looking for trouble. But that’s not Tom,’ says John, clearly exhausted.

He was the one who opened the door of the family home to police on Thursday last week: ‘If they’d said he had been beaten up or there had been a road accident, that would be one thing,’ says John.

‘What’s terrible about this is that it was preventable.

‘We still don’t know why he went over that wall. But my big question is, why didn’t they put up a fence or barrier after Thomas Hughes died? No one has even put up a warning sign. If they had, my Tom might still be alive.’

Thomas Channon, 18 is the third UK holidaymaker to die in the apartment complex this year in a series of falls

Thomas Channon, 18 is the third UK holidaymaker to die in the apartment complex this year in a series of falls

Thomas Channon, 18 is the third UK holidaymaker to die in the apartment complex this year in a series of falls

Town hall officials have now ordered the owners of the block to take action, asking for a fence to be erected within ten days — though there was no sign of any activity when the Mail visited this week.

Attempts to locate the building’s owners for comment were unsuccessful. Gardener Sergio Narvaet, who discovered Tom’s body last Thursday, three months after he also found Natalie Cormack’s body in similar circumstances, says that he thinks the boys (Natalie was trying to reach a friend’s apartment at Eden Roc) must have become disorientated in the dark.

He adds: ‘It is very dark here — they would not see the drop on the other side of the wall. My opinion is that the boys thought they were staying at the white hotel next door and tried to jump over the wall, but didn’t notice the drop.’

Earlier this year — before Tom’s death — the mayor suggested that alcohol was to blame, citing it as the reason behind deaths from falls in the area this year, of which there have now been seven.

Earlier this month, a 19-year-old Frenchman died after falling from the fifth floor of a four-star hotel and, in June, a teenage Irishman fell three floors to his death. In March, James Walton, 23, a Sheffield Hallam University student who was on a placement year on Majorca, died after falling from a friend’s fourth-floor flat in the island’s capital, Palma.

On Thursday, a 14-year-old Irish boy died in hospital after another balcony fall, in a freak accident in which he is believed to have stood on a chair.

Meanwhile, there have been at least four balcony falls involving serious injury on the island since March, as well as a string of incidents in Ibiza and Portugal.

Thomas Owen Hughes, 20, from Wrexham was found lying dead in the same spot as Mr Channon

Thomas Owen Hughes, 20, from Wrexham was found lying dead in the same spot as Mr Channon

Thomas Owen Hughes, 20, from Wrexham was found lying dead in the same spot as Mr Channon

So what is going on?

After Tom’s death, local officials met British diplomats to discuss the problem, which comes just a month after tour operators’ association ABTA and the Foreign Office renewed their annual appeal for holidaymakers to avoid taking risks on hotel balconies.

While some hotel chiefs point the finger at holidaymakers and bars, rather than the free drinks offered in all-inclusive hotel deals, others take a broader view.

Surgeon Juan Jose Segura has treated victims of hotel falls and taken part in campaigns — both the Spanish and British governments have made efforts to heighten safety awareness — to encourage responsible behaviour.

Of the cases he has seen, he says: ‘Most, if not all, of them have consumed alcohol and the accidents happen in the early hours, after an important level of alcohol consumption.

‘The sad thing is that up to the moment of the incident, they are healthy people without any problems.’

The answer? ‘Everything should be focused on reducing the consumption of alcohol so it doesn’t have tragic consequences. Nobody would try to throw themself off a fifth floor if they didn’t have their faculties diminished by alcohol.

‘We have to reach the point where there is less alcohol on offer, so young people won’t be predisposed to drinking until they’re legless.’ Which is easier said than done, of course.

In Magaluf, long hailed as a mecca of hedonism, cheap booze and riotous pub crawls, regulations aimed at cleaning up its notorious reputation were instated in 2015.

It followed a seedy incident the previous summer when a teenage British girl was filmed performing sex acts on 24 men in return for a cheap cocktail after a pub crawl.

The authorities declared that enough was enough and began a crackdown on antisocial behaviour, including fines for anyone caught urinating or drinking in the street — or jumping off balconies.

But has any of this had much effect? Certainly, when we visited this week, we saw warning posters along the main strip. ‘Wear no clothes on the street. Penalty €400,’ read one. ‘Drink on the street. Penalty €500,’ read another.

However, most drunk Britons seem oblivious to the messages as they walk past club promoters competitively flogging cut-price alcohol (‘hens and stags drink free’), while young British women in lacy underwear try to entice young men into strip clubs.

Cheap alcohol is everywhere: a bottle of vodka that would cost £30 at home is less than £10, while cans of beer at the supermarket are 90p. The only Spanish voices we hear on our evening tour are from four weary-looking policemen.

Back at Hotel Florida, where both Toms stayed, the drinking starts as soon as breakfast ends at 10am — and, even when the last club closes at 6am, it doesn’t stop, with groups gathering on balconies to continue the party. But those who have heard about the recent tragedies admit they are worried.

Friends Nathan, Matthew, Ollie and Luke — all aged 18 — are on their first holiday without parents after their exams.

‘It does worry you a bit,’ says Nathan. ‘We’ll definitely look out for each other more and make sure we’re safe and together at the end of the night.’

Ollie admits they came to ‘Maga’ because of ‘cheap booze, good clubs and girls’. But he adds: ‘We’re all sensible. It’s worrying to know how easily things can go wrong after people have a few drinks.’

John Channon, however, doesn’t want to confuse concerns about excess drinking with what led to his son’s death.

‘Alcohol is irrelevant because no one knows anything about what happened,’ he says. ‘After all the alcohol-fuelled incidents and people falling off balconies, everyone gets tarred with the same brush. This is very different.

‘We know that Tom had a drink because they watched the football, but he wasn’t the sort to get absolutely bladdered.’

John will doubtless be glad, though, that some youngsters are at least taking notice of warnings to stay safe.

‘They want to have a good time, they want to enjoy themselves, they want to have a drink, they want to go on the beach, they want to party and it’s quite clearly a major issue in Magaluf,’ he says.

‘Like all parents, I was naturally concerned about him going off on a lads’ holiday. But they’re 18, you’ve got to let them live life and be free and go away with friends.

‘You can worry about drinking but, as a parent, at the very least you expect they will be staying in a safe place.

‘I want to get the message to all parents whose children are going away that they need to tell them to be safe. Tell them to stay in groups, look after each other and be aware that there could be hazards all around.’

On Thursday, John made the second journey no parent wants to make when he flew home with his son’s body. His abiding hope is that Tom did not die in vain.

‘I wouldn’t want any other parent to be going through what we’re going through. And I certainly wouldn’t want them to go through it because of something that need not have happened.’

 

Source link

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

/