Sheffield lake drowning: Tragedy sparks debate on whether 'wild swimming' needs policing

A tragic drowning in a Sheffield lake has sparked debate on whether swimming in open water should be restricted.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 12:46 pm

“Wild swimming” has seen a surge in popularity in the past two years, where swimmers hop into unsupervised reservoirs, lakes and rivers.

But just before midnight on Sunday (July 19), a man’s body was found in the lake at Crookes Valley Park. Emergency services arrived at around 3pm to carry out a search after reports of a man in distress in the water.

The next morning, swimmers returned to the Sheffield lake.

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It has sparked a debate among The Star’s readers about whether the hobby should be treated so lightheartedly.

"It’s so sad when a life is lost unnecessarily but some people will never learn from the experience of others because they think it can’t happen to them,” wrote reader Hazel Kennedy on Facebook. “This incident proves that it can happen to anyone.”

“What about people that go climbing at Stanage edge then?,” wrote user Paul Ree. “Should that be banned too? People should be allowed to make their own decisions in life especially if it doesn’t affect directly anybody else other than them.”

David Booth wrote: “A person can drown in a few inches of water, it all depends on the circumstances. Unfortunately there are all too many irresponsible people out there who will keep on pushing the idea that swimming in reservoirs, rivers, canals and ponds is safe, IT IS NOT. It may be free but it can also prove deadly as has been demonstrated all too often.”

Reader Finnlay Sanchez countered: “We don't stay off the roads because of tragic accidents.

"'Wild' swimming is a free activity that's great for body and mind, our ponds, lakes and reservoirs lend themselves to this few moments of beautiful escape. It is a tragic sad accident, not a cry for fearmongering.”

Online, Google searches for “wild swimming” reached an all time high last August. Searches for the term also went up five times last week.

The spike in the hobby is possibly driven by people looking to escape lockdown when pools were shut. It comes as the UK faced a fierce heatwave over the weekend.

The police are yet to name the man who died this weekend.

Another reader, Chloe Summers wrote: “If you’ve never had a problem [with wild swimming] maybe the person who died may not have either and thought it was safe. Even a confident swimmer can get into difficulty.”

The death has prompted a formal warning by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue today. It reads: “Our message to people across South Yorkshire is simple – please stay out of the water unless you are at a proper swimming pool or part of an organised open water swimming group.

"Open bodies of water are often much colder than they look – this can send your body into shock when you jump in and prevent you being able to swim to safety.

“You also have no idea what is underneath.

“With the summer holidays upon us, we call upon parents to speak to their children about the dangers and not giving into peer pressure."