Family’s safety measures plea after teen’s inquest

Ben Manning   missing Wakefield boy
Ben Manning missing Wakefield boy
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THE heartbroken family of teenager Benjamin Manning – who died after a night out drinking in Wakefield – are calling for safety measures at the spot where he drowned.

Mum Christine Manning, 50, told the Express she wants lighting and warning signs to be installed near a set of metal steps where a coroner said her 17-year-old son may have tripped and plunged into the River Calder on January 22.

She said the family had already raised £430 towards safety equipment at the Thornes Wharf Lane site – but had been unable to track down the owner of the land.

She added: “We want to speak to them about how we can make the site safer. We want to make sure no other family has to go through what we’ve been through. If it saves one life, it’s worth it.”

An inquest at Wakefield Coroner’s Court on Wednesday heard how Allerton Bywater Brigshaw High school pupil Benjamin, known as Ben, had been out in Wakefield with a group of friends to watch a gig in the Black Flag pub on January 21.

He had planned to get a lift home with a friend’s mother, but decided to stay in the city centre – visiting a number of pubs and bars, drinking lager and shots.

The Swillington teenager, of Primrose Hill Gardens, was last seen in Havana bar, but left without telling his friends and was spotted on CCTV walking up Denby Dale Road.

The court heard Mrs Manning reported him missing to the police when he failed to return home the next morning. Family, friends and police launched a massive search operation around the city, but Ben’s body was found by police divers in the river on February 2.

A postmortem examination revealed the cause of his death as drowning. Toxicology tests showed he was more than twice the legal drink drive limit.

Det Sgt David Lister, of West Yorkshire Police’s homicide and major inquiries team, said he believed Ben may have been trying to find his way to the railway station to catch a train home.

The inquest heard it was the teenager’s first night out in the city and he did not have enough money left to pay for a taxi to Swillington.

The officer said Ben would have seen the railway line from near Thornes Wharf Lane and may have climbed over a wall to head towards it.

Coroner David Hinchliff said: “You believe that he’s climbed over the wall and used the metal steps – but it would have become darker. There would be no, or very sparse, light. Any stumble could have caused him to fall into the water.”

Det Sgt Lister said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Ben’s death.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, the coroner added: “It was a tragic situation where a man – unfamiliar with the city – had too much to drink, was lost and disorientated trying to find his way home and inadvertently stumbled into the river.”

Speaking after the hearing, Mrs Manning thanked everyone who helped search for her son and those who have contributed to the family’s charity the Ben Manning Music Foundation.