Firefighters issue warning over open water following five deaths in five years

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South Yorkshire firefighters have issued a safety warning about the dangers of swimming in open water after new figures revealed there have been five deaths over five years.

The figures, which cover 2010 to 2015, have been issued to coincide with Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week, which runs until Sunday.

Fire chiefs are urging people to avoid swimming in open water in a bid to prevent any further deaths.

They are reminding people that river flows can be unpredictable and water is often deeper, colder and faster than expected.

The new figures reveal that South Yorkshire firefighters have attended 85 water rescue incidents over the last five years, including five in which people died.

A total of 51 people were rescued by firefighters.

Firefighters will be visiting water beauty spots this week to offer safety advice to local people.

They were at Rother Valley Country Park yesterday and will be visiting Thrybergh Country Park in Rotherham between 10am and 3pm tomorrow.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s head of prevention and protection, Steve Helps said: “We regularly receive 999 calls in the summer about people getting into difficulty in water, so it’s only a matter of time before someone’s safety is really put at risk unless people listen to our advice.

“It can be tempting to cool off in the summer months, but stick to a swimming pool. Hundreds of people drown each year in the UK and places like rivers, lakes or flooded quarries are completely unsuitable for swimming as they hide a number of hidden dangers.”

Over 400 people die in the water every year in the UK, and firefighters are urging people to follow some basic rules to stay safe.

Officer Helps added: “The danger of open water is that it can be much deeper than you expect.

“Rivers, lakes, canals and reservoirs are much colder than you think and open water can carry water borne diseases, pollutants and bacteria.

“Cold water dramatically affects your ability to swim and there may be hidden currents, which can pull you under the water.

“You don’t know what lies beneath, like pieces of rubbish or reeds which can trap or injure you.”