By Sue Reid
AS dawn breaks on another sizzling summer’s day in Majorca, thousands of British teenagers stumble out of a huge dance club at 4am and spill into a seedy street full of neon-lit bars, lap-dancing joints and cheap kebab takeaways.
A 17-year-old girl in white shorts crashes drunkenly to the ground, legs askew, surrounded by her swaying friends. A group of boys lurch past, clutching Red Bull and vodka cocktails that they’ve bought for the equivalent of 25p. Their eyes are glazed and they burble incoherently in Manchester accents.
It has been a long night in the holiday resort of Magaluf and the main strip, called Punta Ballena, still pulsates to the deafening boom-de-boom music that started well before midnight.
The pavement is sticky with vomit and littered with cigarette butts as the young British revellers queue up for yet more cheap cocktails until the Punta Ballena bars finally close at 6am.
Lying at their feet is the tell-tale paraphernalia of so-called ‘hippy crack’ — countless red and blue balloons that have been used to suck in lungfuls of laughing gas (nitrous oxide).
Costing £3.90 a shot, they give the holidaymakers a burst of euphoria that is similar to the effects of a snort of cocaine.
Welcome to Magaluf — party central for young Britons every summer. However, there is a new and chilling danger for those who view a holiday of hot sun, dirt cheap booze and night after night on the Punta Ballena as a ‘rite of passage’ between youth and adulthood.
Majorca has seen a 132 per cent rise in such hospital cases and this spring three British youngsters were killed after falling off balconies or down steep stairwells in Magaluf.
At this time of year the resort is a magnet for 12,000 youngsters from all over the UK as they celebrate the end of exams or their school days.
It has become the place to be because, they say, Ibiza is ‘too expensive’ and the once popular haunt of Newquay in Cornwall is ‘too cold’. One senior police officer on Majorca told me last week: ‘The British kids coming here are getting younger each year. They used to be in their early 20s, now they are as young as 16.
‘They come here without their parents and without any kind of supervision.
‘Yes, Magaluf is where we all want to be,’ confirmed dark-haired Mollie Last, 18, who finished her A-levels last term. She was sitting with two friends from Swansea, Alex and Rachel, at a busy bar on the Punta Ballena at four in the morning.
She told me: ‘My mum didn’t want me to come to Magaluf. She thought it would be dangerous.’
Indeed, Mollie says there was a stabbing here on the Punta Ballena a few days ago and, in another terrifying incident, three holidaymakers were injured when they were mowed down by a car hurtling into a crowd on Sunday night.
But it’s the balcony deaths that have been the most frightening. They have involved British youngsters falling from high up in their hotels or apartment blocks, invariably in the early hours of the morning after leaving the Punta Ballena strip and often while high on drugs or after all-night drinking binges.
The holiday company Thomson specifically warns of the dangers on its website. It says: ‘Never sit or lean over the balcony rail and do not try to pass items to someone on another balcony. Never attempt to climb from one balcony to another?.?.?.?after drinking alcohol as your judgment might be affected.’
‘At worst, they risk being brought home in a coffin.’
The balconies that are built onto almost every holiday room or apartment in Magaluf are considered particularly dangerous because of the low height of the railings.
Under local building regulations, they have to be a minimum of 1.3 ?metres (4ft 3in) high. But many say they should be much higher.
The Majorcan authorities are reluctant to talk about the problem, but ‘Leapy’ Lee Graham, the former British pop singer (his 1968 single Little Arrows reached No?2 in the UK singles chart) who lives in Majorca, is outspoken on the subject.
‘Since Mark’s death, I have campaigned for higher balconies. These kids don’t deserve to die just because they have had a drink on holiday. Majorca should be protecting them, as holidaymakers bringing money to the island,’ said Leapy last week
‘But my campaign has not made a shred of difference. It has fallen on deaf ears and still they are dying and being injured here.’
He spoke out just after 19-year-old Peter Southwaite, from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, became the latest balcony casualty. He was, said the Majorcan authorities, ‘lucky to be alive’, after he fell nearly 30ft from the second-floor balcony of the Magaluf Park Hotel in the early hours of last Wednesday.
Hotel staff who watched what happened said: ‘He started running along the hotel corridors, then climbed out of his balcony before falling downwards feet first ‘like a cat’.
Peter, who works for a building company, suffered serious leg injuries and was treated in hospital in Majorca’s capital, Palma.
Police say that when they tried to interview him he was too drunk to speak.
Sitting with his leg in a plaster-cast the next day, he explained to me how the accident happened on his first day in Majorca.
Peter had travelled to the island with a group of 11 boys and girls. They had booked four rooms, two on the second floor and two on the ninth.
‘We had a great night out but I had a row with my girlfriend,’ he said. ‘I went to try to find her room to say sorry but went to the wrong one, so I decided to climb over the balconies to get into her room, which was next door.
‘After climbing over the railings of the first balcony I jumped the gap of a few feet to the next. I managed to grab hold of the rail at the top, but I couldn’t pull myself up. I hung there for a few moments, but I knew I was about to fall.
‘At that moment, I thought I was about to die. I knew that climbing over balconies was dangerous. I had heard about the deaths of other kids here in Magaluf this year. I was stupid.’
Peter escaped more serious injury because he landed on a flat roof. But his accident was similar to the tragedies earlier this year when three young Britons, Adam Atkinson, 20, Benjamin Harper, 28, and Charlotte Faris, 23, plunged to their deaths in Magaluf.
Charlotte, whose ambition was to be a police officer, fell 30ft head first over the balcony of her hotel room in the early hours on the first night of her holiday
This week, Charlotte’s mother, Amy, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, refuted Spanish authorities’ claims that her daughter had been drinking heavily. She insisted: ‘She wasn’t a crazy wild-child or the type to be balcony-hopping.
She said that her daughter’s body arrived back in Britain without a post-mortem report so she fears she will never know exactly what happened.
‘We feel Charlotte has been written off as just another Brit abroad and we want to warn other families that this could happen to anyone.’
Sadly, Charlotte did not to take out travel insurance because she was only on a short break, so the family were left to find the £5,000 to bring her body back to Britain.
A luckier victim was Jake Evans, 19, who plunged 90ft down seven storeys from a balcony at the Torrenova Hotel. He landed on a sun-lounger, which saved his life by cushioning his fall.
The Liverpudlian said afterwards: ‘It’s a miracle. The balcony was only waist-high. That’s the legal height in Majorca. I believe they should be much higher or replaced by windows.’
He admitted: ‘Drink is to blame for most balcony accidents. In Magaluf, you go from bar to bar having loads of cheap bevvies. That is what we come for.
‘Later, back at the hotel, I just leant over the balcony to try and catch a cigarette lighter that someone had thrown up to me from below and I toppled over.
‘I hit several other balcony railings on the way down. I woke up at the bottom, and there was blood everywhere and my mates were screaming. I fractured my skull, mangled by right wrist, broke some fingers, cut my eyelids, broke my front tooth, had a hole in my lip and was covered with cuts and bruises.
Apart from the dangers of balconies, the Foreign Office now says there is a growing number of rapes of holidaymakers being reported to UK consular staff and, in the past year, these rose internationally from 115 to 127.
A survey earlier this year of 700 British youngsters in Majorca found 15 per cent had suffered sexual harassment while on holiday there, and 2.2 per cent had been raped, many while drunk.
Certainly in Magaluf last week there were persistent rumours of girl holidaymakers being raped. Many, I was told by the young revellers themselves, do not report the attacks because they are so drunk or drugged they cannot remember the next morning who has accosted them or where the incident happened.
None of this surprised me as I watched five girls from Hull, aged between 18 and 22, drunkenly walk up and down the Magaluf strip at 2am pulling up their T-shirts to bare their breasts.
Short of money, they were offering boys the chance to suck their nipples in exchange for a couple of euros.
One of them, a well-spoken teenager called Jessica, who has just left school after taking her A-levels, told me: ‘It seemed a good way to get a bit of extra money for the holiday. We had all had a bit to drink. I realise you could call what we did “minor prostitution”. If our parents found out, they’d go mad.’
A few minutes later, on the Ballena strip as the sun rose, I found another group of British girls standing beside a wall, swaying and giggling.
On holiday from Bedale (the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales), they had been drinking for the best part of six hours and were about to go back to their hotel to sleep the day away.
When I asked them about the balcony accidents, Sophie Waldron, 21, said: ‘The one outside my hotel room seems very flimsy. I am 5ft 10in tall and if I am in high heels the railing only reaches to the top of my leg. I think it’s very dangerous, considering the amount of alcohol people are drinking here.
‘You can buy an entire round of vodka shots and cocktails on the Punta Ballena for less than £3. The bars even give away free T-shirts to entice you to buy the drink. At home, in our local club, the same round would cost £17.’
Magaluf may be the favourite place for young Brits, but it is serving up a dangerous holiday cocktail that will surely lead to more disasters in the future.