Sunday 11 December 2016

Student surfer ignored by passers-by 'scared of paying his medical bills' as he lay dying in Moroccan ravine

Cristina Criddle

Published 14/07/2016 | 07:43

Photo: Google maps
Photo: Google maps

A student who lay dying after falling into a Moroccan ravine may have been ignored for hours by onlookers worried about being liable for medical bills, an inquest has heard.

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Luke Sewell, 20, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, was on a university surfing trip in Agadir when he was found at the bottom of a 20ft ravine near his hotel in March 2014.

Coroner Dr Janet Napier said it was “likely” the Newcastle University undergraduate was spotted by passers-by en route to a nearby mosque up to three hours before emergency services were alerted.

Dr Napier suggested people did not stop to help due to fears over “financing” the bill, Manchester Evening News reported.

According to the World Health Organisation, Morocco struggles with a shortage of doctors and equipment in its public health system, which means payment is often necessary to receive medical attention.

Tracie Stringer, Mr Sewell’s mother, told the inquest in Warrington: “We were told everybody walked past Luke for a long period of time and nobody would go near him as they would be  liable if he was taken to hospital. That’s terrible.”

The coroner found there was no evidence of self-harm or severe intoxication although, on the night of his death, Mr Sewell had drank “some alcohol”.

Having returned to his hotel with friends at 1.30am, it is thought Mr Sewell ventured outside to retrieve his missing mobile phone, which was found under a table the following day.

The student was discovered lying alive at the bottom of a ravine, on a riverbank near his accommodation, at 7am the following morning.

He was taken to hospital and treated for severe head injuries but died on April 2, 2014, with his parents at his bedside. It is believed there was no time to airlift him to the UK for treatment.

The Manchester City supporter has been described as a “much-loved” son who helped care for his autistic younger brother Joel, 19.

The surfer is also thought to have suffered from depression but, after switching from chemical engineering to study maths and statistics, was in a more positive mindset and happy on his new course, an inquest heard.

On hearing the news in 2014, senior lecturer Dr Peter Avery – who worked with Mr Sewell as he made his transition between the two courses – said he had many friends and was a talented student.

“Luke had been with us at Newcastle University for more than two years and had made many friends in that time,” he told The Courier.

“Luke was a talented student with a bright future ahead of him and embraced every aspect of university life.”

Moroccan authorities found his death to be “non-suspicious” – but refused to share the findings of their investigation. Suspicions arose as the route was not guarded by a fence or warning sign and it was not Mr Sewell’s “usual path” back to the hotel.

Recording a narrative conclusion, the coroner said Mr Sewell died from head and chest injuries, adding: “Luke Sewell was found with severe head injuries at the bottom of a ravine near his accommodation block.

There is no evidence as to how this happened.”

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