“I don’t think my parents will ever stop fighting for Glyn, he was their baby boy and it was avoidable – that’s the most painful thing.”
Sion Summers was just 22 years old and a newly qualified teacher when his younger brother Glyn died after falling from a hotel balcony while on a college trip.
A decade after the tragedy, Glyn’s family are still desperately searching for answers, and the apology they feel is owed, following the death of their “absolute joy” of a son and brother.
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Brothers Sion and Glyn Summers before the accident
(Image: Sion Summers)
Glyn Summers from Caerphilly was 17 years old when he died in October, 2011 after falling five storeys from a balcony in Barcelona.
He had been visiting the city as part of an educational trip with his engineering course at Ystrad Mynach College. The accident happened on the first night of the trip and Glyn died a week later in a Spanish hospital.
The family later learned in a letter from the college that Glyn had been permitted by a tutor to visit an over 21s nightclub on the night of the accident, where it is thought alcohol was consumed.
The legal age for purchasing and drinking in Spain is 18.
In the letter seen by WalesOnline, the former principal of Ystrad Mynach College, explained that tutors had used their “professional judgement” in allowing pupils to visit the nightclub.
Almost ten years on, Glyn’s family are still waiting to see the internal investigation report from the college – which merged with Coleg Morgannwg to create Coleg y Cymoedd two years after the incident.
The college, however, argues legal restrictions prevent it from giving the family unrestricted access to the report.
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Glyn’s brother Sion, 32, said the family would continue to fight for answers and an explanation why the pupils were given permission to attend the nightclub on the night of the accident.
They have also launched a petition asking the Welsh Parliament to conduct a public independent investigation into Glyn’s death as well as the college’s actions in the aftermath.
Sion said the family had never seen the internal investigation carried out by the college into Glyn’s death
(Image: Richard Swingler)
“It’s the 10 year anniversary of Glyn’s death in October and unfortunately, we feel we still haven’t had any genuine or meaningful exchange with the college of what the circumstances of the accident was. They have refused to release the results of an investigation that they did into the accident which caused his death.
“I just don’t see where humanity is in it, it’s just completely devastating. The fact we are still going over it 10 years later is draining, it takes you back to that week where I was constantly on edge, constantly wondering what had happened.”
Sion, who now lives in Penarth, was working as a teacher in a primary school when he first learned of Glyn’s accident.
“A few hours after going to the bar Glyn was brought back to the hotel by one of his friends because he was unwell – either food or alcohol, we don’t know. Glyn’s friends brought him back and put him to bed and left him to get some sleep. Shortly after, Glyn went out onto his balcony – we think to get some fresh air or to be ill – and unfortunately he fell over the balcony railings.
“He was hanging upside down for a few seconds and tried to clamber back up onto the balcony but unfortunately fell five storeys.”
After learning of the accident, the teenager’s parents rushed to be by his bedside in Spain. He sadly died a week later of his injuries.
Sion (left) says his family still have questions about the circumstances surrounding Glyn’s death
(Image: Sion Summers)
“Glyn’s accident happened in the evening, so my parents flew out first thing in the morning. Unfortunately my phone was off so they couldn’t contact me.
“My parents were by Glyn’s bedside in a critical care unit and I was stuck here. My parents, wanting to protect me, told me to stay in Wales while they saw what happened and unfortunately Glyn died a few days later in the hospital. I was teaching in a primary school at the time and I was just numb.
“I remember getting the call while I was in the school, I couldn’t go back teaching for a year. It really affected my mental health – and still does.”
Sion claimed the family were initially told that Glyn had jumped from the balcony, insinuating that Glyn had committed suicide. He claimed they also seemed to be speaking to the family as though they had witnessed the incident.
It was only 10 months later when the family received a translated incident report from Spanish police that they learned that Glyn had fallen, with eyewitness reports confirming this.
The report also revealed that no tutors were present at the time of the incident. Glyn’s family claimed the tutors were staying in a separate hotel to the pupils. Ystrad Mynach College, now Coleg Y Cymoedd, has been approached on these claims.
“We were led to believe that Glyn had committed suicide, and so for 10 months while we waited for the Spanish police report, trying to grapple with that,” claimed Sion.
“He was an absolute joy, he was constantly smiling – it didn’t make sense that he would suddenly jump off a balcony. It didn’t make sense to us which is why we wanted to find out more about it and get the police report. It slowly came out that he had fallen, there were eyewitness reports – and if he had wanted to commit suicide he wouldn’t have tried to get back onto the balcony.”
The family are now calling for the Welsh Government and the education secretary to launch a public investigation into what happened and the alleged failings that followed Glyn’s death.
“I think the closest my parents ever got to seeing the report (the investigation report by the college) was with a gagging order placed on it,” said Sion.
“So, they wouldn’t have been able to discuss the contents of the report, which is concerning in itself, they would have to do so in a solicitors office. They refused to see the report because they were given an hour to take all of that in. They wouldn’t even be allowed a copy of it to digest the circumstances of their son’s death in their own home which I just think is disgusting.
“Also, if my parents went to see that report, and had any questions off the back of it to make sure this didn’t happen to others, they wouldn’t have any power to drive those changes.”
Glyn was on a college trip to Spain when he died after visiting a nightclub
(Image: Sion Summers)
Sion said they were hoping an external investigation would be launched so something like this didn’t happen to anybody else.
He said they wanted recognition of and an apology from Coleg Y Cymoedd over alleged failings by staff, including allowing children to go to a nightclub.
“Then for their inadequate communication with my parents and to share that internal investigation with my family with no legal stipulation.
“The petition is for the Education Minister to launch an independent investigation into what happened, but also make sure that if any serious accident or fatality happens again in an education setting, that schools and further education colleges are kept to the same standards.”
The family are calling on the Welsh Government to conduct an independent investigation into the death.
Sion says the family want an independent inquiry into Glyn’s death
(Image: Richard Swingler)
“I don’t think my parents will ever stop fighting for Glyn, he was their baby boy and it was avoidable – that’s the most painful thing. We would really like to be able to move on and remember all the really happy memories with Glyn. We haven’t been able to move on from Glyn’s death because there are so many unanswered questions that we have.
“A resolution for us would be an apology…so we can rest a little easier at least that if serious accidents happen like this again that there is no opportunity for anyone to act inappropriately.”
Karen Phillips, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “The death of Glyn Summers, during an overseas trip in 2011 organised by the former College Ystrad Mynach, was a tragic accident that was deeply distressing for family and friends as well as staff and fellow students who continue to feel his loss.
“Coleg y Cymoedd assumed responsibility for the College Ystrad Mynach in 2013, following the merger of that college with the former Coleg Morgannwg.
“While no members of the former college’s leadership team are now employed at Coleg y Cymoedd, as the successor college we have always endeavoured to do as much as we are permitted to give Glyn’s parents the information which they have requested. We have taken a similar approach in liaising with Welsh Government. However, legal constraints prevent us offering unrestricted access to the documents in this case.
“Since becoming principal of the successor college in January, 2019, I have offered to meet with Glyn’s family on three occasions in the hope that I might illustrate how the lessons learned from their tragic loss have resulted in significant enhancements regarding educational trips at all Welsh education providers.
“The safety and wellbeing of the students in our care is, and always will be, the over-riding priority for Coleg y Cymoedd. Our safeguarding policies, procedures and practices are constantly monitored to ensure the safety of all students participating in college trips and other activities.
“Our thoughts and sympathies continue to be with Glyn’s family and loved ones.”
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