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Vilvoorde to discuss safety measures along canal following death of student

19:43 07/01/2020
From Flanders Today

The death of a student who drowned on New Year’s Eve has led to calls for better safety along the banks of the Brussels-Scheldt canal in Vilvoorde. Frederik Vanclooster, 21, is thought to have fallen into the canal after leaving a party at De Kruitfabriek, a waterside venue.

After a major police search involving a helicopter, divers and hundreds of volunteers, his body was found on 5 January. There were no signs of violence, and an autopsy showed that he had drowned.

Vlaamse Waterweg, which manages the canal, is in discussions with the city of Vilvoorde and the owner of De Kruitfabriek on ways to improve safety around the venue. “We are calling on experts for this,” said Vilvoorde mayor Hans Bonte.

“I would rather leave this to people who have expertise in that area, because opinions about the measures to be taken vary widely. One argues for a barrier along the canal, another thinks that is very dangerous because it invites people to climb on it. It’s also a question of the distance at which you should place any barrier.”

Vanclooster was the son of VRT journalists Lucas Vanclooster and Kristien Bonneure. He was studying for a master’s degree in computer science at VUB and led a scout group for young people with disabilities.

The city of Vilvoorde has posthumously named him a city ambassador – a title given to his parents shortly before – and De Kruitfabriek has opened a book of condolence. “This is an example of what we strive for as a city: warmth and engagement,” a spokesperson for the city said. “Frederik stood for the same values and was a much-loved young man who brought people together, looked out for everyone and had many friends. As a symbol of solidarity and caring, it is only right that he is named an ambassador.”

The city has named ambassadors each year since 2017: the first was choreographer, author and TV celebrity Ish Ait Hamou, followed by the company Ecoworks and Vanclooster’s parents, for their work both in their professional lives and as volunteers at an annual art exhibition and as tour guides.

“Our thoughts go out to Frederik’s family and friends and to everyone who knew him during this incredibly difficult time,” said VUB rector Caroline Pauwels. “In times like these, where words seem inadequate, we may also find comfort in our university community.” Fellow students can speak to counsellors for support.

Photo: The entrance to the Kruitfabriek is located just a few steps from the edge of the canal in Vilvoorde
©Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA

Written by Sally Tipper (Flanders Today)