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Merton Street shut after Corpus boppers take to the roof

Three fire engines were called on Saturday after several students at Corpus Christi climbed onto the college’s roof after a bop.

All but one all of the students escaped from the porters, while one had to be rescued by the fire service.

After the bop had been shut down by the college, an unknown number of students decided to climb the roof.

Eyewitness reports indicate the students crawled along a first-floor gutter in order to reach the slate roof of the main quad. It is unclear how the students reached the gutter, but they were quickly spotted by porters and a junior dean.

Some of the students were seen to escape by crawling back in the direction they came, and remain unidentified. One student was unable to climb down and decided to wait for rescue.

The Fire and Rescue Service, which arrived at approximately 1.00am, stopped all passage through Merton Street from King Edward Street in order to create a secure cordon and prevent any bystander injuries. At approximately 1.45am, the student was brought down from the roof by a specialised crane truck and access to Merton Street was restored by 2.00am.

One eyewitness from Corpus Christi, who who wished to remain anonymous, told Cherwell: “The bop had just been shut down to the traditional chants of ‘We are the famous CCC’ and I was entering the quad when I heard men from above my head.

“I looked up to see several shadows crawling along the gutter towards the roof. It looked really dangerous, especially in the dark of the night.”

David Bray, Fire Protection and Business Safety Manager for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, released a statement to Cherwell:

“I am able to confirm that at 00.48 on Sunday 23 April 2017 Oxfordshire County Council Fire & Rescue Service were called to a report of a person on the roof of Corpus Christi College, Merton Street, Oxford.

“One fire appliance was mobilised from Rewley Road Fire Station in the centre of Oxford and arrived at the scene of the incident at 00.54.” Mr Bray added: “Due to the location of the person, and the access difficulties involved in bringing them safely down from the roof, the Incident Commander called for an additional resource in the form of an Aerial Ladder Platform which is a specialist high reach appliance also stationed at Rewley Road.

“The person was safely brought down via the cage of this high reach appliance.

A fire engine
The fire and rescue service outside Corpus Christi. Source: Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue

“They had placed themselves at great danger, considering that they were over four storeys above street level, and the slightest slip may have had disastrous consequences, which could have, at best, involved life changing injuries.”

In an email to JCR members, seen by Cherwell, the Dean of Corpus Christi, Dr David Russell, described climbing on college buildings as “extraordinarily dangerous”, noting the “seriousness” of the ban on climbing and concluding that “the ground is unforgiving.”

Speaking to Cherwell, Corpus JCR President, Alice Rubbra, said: “This was a reckless incident which wasted precious fire service time and resources. Roofs are not to be climbed on. On behalf of the JCR, I condemn such dangerous behaviour and hope it will not happen again.”

Another student, second year lawyer Jeremy Huitson, had more positive thoughts about the events.

“Whilst I wasn’t involved in climbing myself and think it’s a huge hazard, colleges will never be able to stop young people taking risks in search of thrills. Instead, colleges should try to make night climbing a safer activity, perhaps by investing in harness equipment.”

It is believed the students were following in the footsteps of Oxford and Cambridge ‘night climbing’, a student sport of climbing up the walls of colleges and exploring the rooftops.

First described in 1895, the activity has a long history but has faded in the popularity in recent decades as health and safety laws have tightened, though students have been depicted on Oxford roofs as recently as in the 2014 film The Riot Club.

According to data released by the Office for National Statistics, 5,438 people in England and Wales died from falls in 2015.

Corpus Christi College has been contacted for comment.

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