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Chemical linked to Port Meadow tent death
AN OXFORD beauty spot was cordoned off to protect the public from chemicals after a man’s body was found in a tent.
Six people were treated by ambulance staff while dozens of police officers, specialist chemical hazard teams and fire and ambulance service personnel were sent to the incident at Port Meadow yesterday, along with a police helicopter.
Every entrance to the North Oxford meadow was cordoned off by police, and families out for their Sunday walk were turned away.
- Emergency services and specialist teams at Port Meadow
Police said the man, who has not been identified, was pronounced dead at the scene and the death is being treated as unexplained.
An inquest is expected to be opened.
South Central Ambulance spokesman Michelle Archer said: “We were called to the scene at 12.34pm to reports of a chemical incident in Walton Well Road.
“Six patients were assessed and discharged at the scene.”
Ms Archer was not able to say whether the patients were members of the public or emergency services personnel.
Emergency services staff were called by a member of the public who found the body and discovered a strong odour of chemicals.
Witnesses said the tent was in the centre of the meadow.
Thames Valley Police spokeswoman Francine Rodrigues said: “Police were called at 12.25pm yesterday by a member of the public who discovered the body of a man in a tent while walking in the Port Meadow area.
“The body was confirmed as deceased at the scene, which presented a strong odour of chemicals.
“The area was cordoned off as specially trained CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) officers attended the scene to ensure its safety.”
- Port Meadow was closed off
Oxford University student Rami Koujah, 22, who lives in Jericho, said emergency staff had told him the chemical hydrogen sulphide, a colourless gas that is poisonous, was involved in the incident.
He said: “Someone from the emergency services told us there had been a chemical spill – hydrogen sulphide.”
Sushila Dhall, chairman of Oxford Pedestrians Association, said: “I tried to get on to the meadow but I was turned away and was told there had been a toxic spillage.
“There were people in full-body suits and police stopped people from going on to the meadow.”
A 24-year-old Jericho resident, who asked not to be named, said: “We were just going to walk around Port Meadow, to have a nice afternoon walk on a Sunday – this is really sad.”
Another local resident, who did not want to be named, said: “It is unusual to pitch a tent in the middle of the meadow. It does not happen.
“It shows something is wrong.”
Another Jericho resident, 22, said: “The meadow is normally full of people on Sunday, out with their dogs or with their families.”
Port Meadow is run by Oxford City Council and there is access to the open space from Walton Well Road or Aristotle Lane in the south, or from Godstow and Wolvercote in the north.
The meadow is a popular haunt for birdwatchers and the meadow and Wolvercote Common are a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The Freemen of Oxford have grazing rights on the meadow.
Police said the death was being treated as unexplained, but said there were no suspicious circumstances at this time.
Supt Steve Hockin said: “Early indications are that the chemical involved in the death of the man is hydrogen sulphide, but emergency services are working together to examine the scene and recover the body as safely as possible.”