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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 May, 2003, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
River leapers evade security
Magdalen Bridge, Oxford
It is tradition to jump from Magdalen Bridge on May Morning

Safety fears over Oxford's traditional May Morning celebrations have been revived after revellers leapt from Magdalen Bridge.

At least four people jumped into the River Cherwell on Thursday morning after they evaded security guards to climb over a two-metre safety fence.

More than 8,000 people gathered on and around the bridge, to hear choristers sing hymns at dawn from the tower at Magdalen College.

Between 1998 and 2000, the bridge was closed for the celebrations over safety concerns.

Man jumps into the River Cherwell on May Morning
Safety fears are over the shallow water

Matthew Balaam, 30, an architect, made the 25 feet leap into the river.

Wearing just a dress shirt, bow tie and swimming trunks, he said: "I have been waiting 10 years to do this, ever since I was a student at Oxford Brookes University.

"It was fantastic but it did hurt.

"When you hit the water you hit the bottom almost at the same time and do a belly flop," he said.

"The security guards tried to stop us getting in but we weren't having any of it, frankly."

'Scared of water'

Another leaper, Mo Bala, 21, said he wanted to jump before emigrating to Australia in two weeks.

"I am scared of water, scared of heights and I've got asthma but I wanted to do this before I left to go Down Under," he said.

Signs had been erected around the bridge to discourage potential jumpers, saying: "Do not jump risk of serious injury or death" and "Shallow water 30cm (1ft) max in outer stream."

Previous years saw the bridge closed to stop people jumping in the river, but also over concerns about the strength of parapets on the bridge, which have now been strengthened.

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