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Oxford student died after accidentally stepping off Margate cliff


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An Oxford student described as "a bright star who was going to set the world alight" tragically died after accidentally walking off a seaside cliff.

Popular Simone Norowzian, 21, had been staying with friends in Margate when she climbed over some railings, not realising there was a sheer drop on the other side.

Simone, pictured, had been staying at an Airbnb in Margate with friends before the tragic accident
Simone, pictured, had been staying at an Airbnb in Margate with friends before the tragic accident

Her devastated family believe her death was avoidable and are now urging Thanet District Council to "prevent such a tragedy from being repeated".

Simone, who read English and classics at Oxford, had been visiting the Kent coast with two friends for the August bank holiday.

She went out for dinner and drinks at a Wetherspoon pub, prior to returning to her Airbnb in Ethelbert Terrace, where she played Truth or Dare with her pals.

Having stayed up until the early hours of the morning, she decided to head outside for a cigarette by the sea before going to bed.

The drama enthusiast was followed outside by one of her friends, William Hayman, who heard a “short, sharp scream” as the final-year student fell to her death.

The 21-year-old (pictured) was studying English and classics at Oxford University
The 21-year-old (pictured) was studying English and classics at Oxford University

At an inquest this week, Mr Hayman said in a statement read on his behalf: “After we completed the game of Truth or Dare, we sat up talking for about 15 minutes.

“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.”

Simone had climbed over the railings that run along the cliff-edge near Margate Lido and onto a strip of grass just before the drop, thinking it led to the beach.

Simone Norowzian plunged to her death after climbing over a clifftop railing, which she thought led directly to the beach
Simone Norowzian plunged to her death after climbing over a clifftop railing, which she thought led directly to the beach

Instead, she unwittingly landed on 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.”

'She was a true bright star, full of light and passion who was going to set the world alight...'

Emergency services were called to the scene soon afterwards at about 3.40am on August 28, where paramedics pronounced Simone dead.

During the hearing in Maidstone, the undergraduate was described by her sister Claire Norowzian as “a sensible girl” and a passionate thespian.

“Simone was entering her final year at Oxford. She was a keen actor and had her whole life ahead of her,” Claire added.

“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.”

Family members described Simone as a drama enthusiast who had "had her whole life ahead of her"
Family members described Simone as a drama enthusiast who had "had her whole life ahead of her"

DS Alper Ay also told the inquest on Wednesday that the “poor lighting” in the area – as well as the fact that Simone had been drinking – could have contributed to her fatal mistake.

Post-mortem reports showed that the talented student, who was from Sunbury-on-Thames, was more than twice the drink-drive limit.

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 [beyond the railings] 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.”

Thanet District Council is responsible for the maintenance of the upper and lower promenades, as well as for the lighting and the metre-tall railings along the cliff.

Oxford student Simone Norowzian died after accidentally walking off a cliff in August
Oxford student Simone Norowzian died after accidentally walking off a cliff in August

Luke Glover, who works for the authority, insisted during the inquest that the barriers are up to the standards “you would expect along a modern coastline”.

He also stated that the lighting was adequate for the area.

“It’s not often you would see people on the upper promenade at night,” he continued.

“It’s probably better than a lot of areas in the UK in terms of clifftop safety.

“There are no defects with the lighting at that spot.”

Following the hearing, a district council spokesman said the authority will be reviewing its coastal risk assessments
Following the hearing, a district council spokesman said the authority will be reviewing its coastal risk assessments

Mr Glover also revealed that council officers had discussed the merits of erecting signs along the coast warning passersby about the cliff.

Despite saying they would not cost much to erect, he said the authority’s position is “if it’s got a balustrade there, it’s not necessary to put a sign up”.

“I have been at Thanet District Council for 13 years and I have never known of an incident there,” Mr Glover noted.

Post-mortem examinations showed that the passionate scholar died from a severe head injury sustained in the fall.

Coroner Joanne Andrews recorded Simone’s death as an accident, adding: “She was an intelligent girl and had come to Margate for a week away with friends.

'We believe it is the council’s responsibility to prevent such a tragedy from being repeated...'

“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.”

However, Ms Andrews did not provide any recommendations for the district council in her outcome.

Despite this, a spokesman for the authority told KentOnline following the hearing that officials will carry out a review of its coastal risk assessments.

Family members urged Thanet District Council to take steps to prevent a repeat of the tragedy
Family members urged Thanet District Council to take steps to prevent a repeat of the tragedy

A fundraising appeal for charity CARE International UK has been launched in Simone’s memory online by loved ones.

A tribute written on the JustGiving page describes the talented student – who was also known as Atousa – as an intelligent and inspirational young woman.

It reads: “We cannot believe that our beautiful Atousa is no longer with us.

“We are truly heartbroken. But we are lucky enough to remember her as an inspirational daughter, sister and aunty.

“She was a true bright star, full of light and passion who was going to set the world alight.

“Like her mum, Atousa was passionate about social justice and equality. She was also whip smart and one of the only students from her school to attend Oxford University.

“Rather than sending flowers, we would love and appreciate if people could donate to CARE International.”

To make a contribution to the fundraiser, click here.

For more information on how we can report on inquests, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Thanet

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