'She fell, and... the panic happened'

The University of Otago says it will consider wider concerns when it comes to student behaviour in the city following the death of a young woman at a Dundas St flat party.

Police are still trying to piece together exactly what happened at a party at "The Manor" on Saturday, understood to have been attended by several hundred people.

Litter and shoes lie on the footpath outside a Dunedin flat where one person died and two were...
Litter and shoes lie on the footpath outside a Dunedin flat where one person died and two were injured during a party on Saturday night. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
The university's comments came in response to questions about whether the university thought it was time to think about ways to control the size and scale of parties; whether the party should have been shut down much earlier; and whether Dunedin's tertiary institutions should take more responsibility for the high number of students going through the hospital emergency department and clogging up Fire and Emergency NZ and police resources.

University director of communications Megan McPherson said the university's priority was to support students affected by the "tragic" event.

"As you can imagine, many people are grieving today and we are supporting the student's family and friends.

"There is a police investigation under way and we are co-operating fully."

She said the questions raised by the Otago Daily Times may be addressed by the investigation.

"When the investigation is complete, we will consider wider concerns that may be raised by this event."

Otago Coastal area commander Inspector Marty Gray told media at a press conference yesterday Campus Watch contacted police five minutes before midnight on Saturday to report disorderly behaviour.

That call was followed by one from partygoers, asking for help to halt the event.

When police arrived, the young woman, a student at the university, was carried out of the house by people at the address.

Police and others tried to revive her before St John arrived.

"When our officers arrived there was ... about 500 or 600 partygoers, a lot of them anxious, a lot of them trying to get out of the premises, a lot of them trying to get in the premises, a lot of disorganisation, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of anxiety," he said.

"The victim was carried out of the house by other people and resuscitation attempts were made at that time."

Police climb the stairway of the student flat known as "The Manor". PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Police climb the stairway of the student flat known as "The Manor". PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Two other people sustained injuries at the party.

Partygoers' efforts to help the woman were "fantastic" and police did not meet any resistance at the scene, Inspector Gray said.

He told media it was too early to call the death an accident, and also too early to speculate whether charges would be laid.

A student who attended the party told The New Zealand Herald people fell down the flat's stairs and landed on top of the woman, who suffered fatal injuries.

"She may have been trampled," the student said.

"I went outside and saw her lying on the ground being given CPR."

Two women place flowers in the hedge at the Dundas St property. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Two women place flowers in the hedge at the Dundas St property. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Another partygoer told the Otago Daily Times the house was "seriously crowded", and there were people "slipping and falling" on the stairwell.

"She fell, and that's when the panic happened.

"The tears started flooding from everyone else."

There were initial reports the stairwell of the house had collapsed, but Inspector Gray told media the house did not appear to have any structural issues.

Inspector Gray was unable to release any details of the young woman's identity, but said her family lived outside Dunedin and had been informed of her death.

The police's priority was providing support to her friends and family, the occupants of the flat and the wider community. Police were also asking anyone at the party - or anyone with information about the incident who had not yet spoken to them - to come forward.

Otago Coastal area commander Inspector Marty Gray speaks to media at Dunedin Central Police...
Otago Coastal area commander Inspector Marty Gray speaks to media at Dunedin Central Police Staion yesterday. PHOTO: CRAIG BAXTER
"It's not a time to sort of point fingers or to indicate that anything sinister went on. It's for us to ... rally round this community who are hurting and for a very good reason," he said.

He encouraged students affected by her death to seek support through police, victim support and other agencies.

Vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said the university would work with police as they continued to investigate the incident.

"We are deeply saddened by what occurred last night. We are supporting the family of the student who died," she said.

"Our staff are working with them today, and will continue to do so, at this very difficult time."

The Otago University Students' Association said in statement it offered condolences to the family and those affected.

The university has confirmed it has plans to lease the flat from the owners in 2020, and attempts have been made to contact the landlords of the property.

 

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