Oxford student, 21, dies after accidentally walking off cliff at night

An Oxford student died after accidentally walking off a cliff following an evening out with friends, an inquest heard.

Simone Norowzian, 21, had been enjoying the August bank holiday at an Airbnb rental with friends in Margate, Kent, when she climbed over railings thinking it led to the beach.

But the final year student did not realise in the darkness that there was a sheer drop on the other side and fell to her death shortly before 3.40am on August 28.

Friend William Hayman described hearing a ‘short, sharp scream’ as he tried to warn his friend, who he described as ‘intoxicated’, about the cliff.

He told the inquest that he, Ms Norowzian and another friend had gone out for dinner and drinks at a Wetherspoon pub before returning to their Airbnb to play a game of Truth or Dare.

Mr Hayman said in a statement: ‘We decided to go to bed and Simone wanted a cigarette. She and I walked out into the car park and I realised she was very intoxicated.

‘She was ahead of me by about 10 metres and walked towards the fence where the viewing binoculars were.

‘As I shouted that there was a cliff, I heard a short, sharp scream.’

Ms Norowzian had climbed over the railings that run along the cliff-edge near Margate Lido and onto a strip of grass just before the drop onto the promenade below.

‘The first thing I did was repeatedly call Simone’s name,’ Mr Hayman continued. ‘I flagged a car down and pleaded with him to call an ambulance.

‘After the ambulance arrived, I walked towards the lido to try to see Simone, but it was too dark.

‘I know for a fact that she would not have gone over on purpose.’

DS Alper Ay told the inquest on Wednesday that the ‘poor lighting’ in the area, and the fact that Ms Norowzian had been drinking, may have contributed to her fatal fall.

Post-mortem reports showed that the student, from Sunbury-on-Thames, Sussex, was more than twice the drink-drive limit and died of a head injury sustained in the fall.

DS Ay added: ‘If you stood up on the railings, you can see it’s a cliff edge.

‘Due to the poor lighting and the long grass, it could be difficult at a quick glance to see the drop.

‘Under the influence of alcohol, you could mistake the drop for a hill. It was a tragic accident.’

Ms Norowzian’s devastated family believe her death was avoidable and are now urging Thanet District Council to do more to make the area safer.

During her inquest, the English and Classics student was described by her sister Claire Norowzian as ‘a sensible girl’ who had a passion for acting.

She added: ‘Simone was entering her final year at Oxford. She was a keen actor and had her whole life ahead of her.

‘She couldn’t clearly assess the danger. She thought she was climbing over the barrier to a hill to the beach.

‘We believe her death was preventable and avoidable. We believe it is the council’s responsibility to prevent such a tragedy from being repeated.’

Luke Glover, who works for the authority, told the inquest that the barriers are up to the standards ‘you would expect along a modern coastline’ and that the lighting was adequate for the area.

Coroner Joanne Andrews recorded the student’s death as an accident, but did not provide any recommendations for the district council in her outcome.

She said: ‘She was an intelligent girl and had come to Margate for a week away with friends.

‘As I understand the situation, the upper promenade is light and the lower promenade is not.

‘There’s no evidence that the council was aware of any issues with the lighting at the time. The railings are inspected twice a year.

‘This is nothing other than a tragic accident.’

 A spokesperson for the authority confirmed following the hearing that officials will carry out a review of its coastal risk assessments.

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