Warning over open water swimming issued after two deaths in two months in and around Sheffield

Experts have told of the dangers of open water swimming in the wake of the death of a man in a Sheffield park’s lake and a drowning in a South Yorkshire reservoir.

By David Kessen
Monday, 2nd August 2021, 8:03 am

The tragedy in Crookes Valley Park on July 18 came less than two months after 16-year-old Sam Haycock died at Ulley Reservoir, near Sheffield, on May 28.

There have also been drownings in other parts of Yorkshire over the summer.

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Sheffield drowning tragedy: Measures put in place to deter swimming in park’s la...

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Emergency services at the scene of a drowning tragedy in Crookes Valley Park, Sheffield, last month

Now several organisations across Yorkshire, including all South Yorkshire’s emergency services, have joined forces to encourage people across the region to learn about the dangers of open water swimming, after recent hot weather led to a spate of tragic water incidents.

Dave Walton, Deputy Chief Fire Officer for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said: “Unfortunately, as many people will have seen in the news, there has been a marked increase in the number of tragic water incidents recently, which have required the assistance of emergency services across Yorkshire. Sadly, in most cases, these incidents would have been preventable if more people were aware of the multitude of hazards when entering open water bodies such as lakes, reservoirs, canals, rivers and the sea.”

Water safety messages will be shared throughout summer on social media using #WaterWiseYorkshire.

Experts in the campaign say knowing and understanding the hazards of open water could help to drastically reduce the number of people who get into difficulty each year.

They say messages to remember when entering open water, are:

>Do not drink and dive - alcohol badly affects judgement, swimming ability and body temperature.

>Stick together – always make sure you have someone with you who can call for help if you get into difficulties. Keep an eye on non-swimmers and children, even in shallow areas as they may unexpectedly drop off steeply.

>Read the signs – if the landowner has put signage up saying the water isn’t safe to enter please take notice. There could be dangerous currents, obstacles or poor water quality, even if it looks okay on the surface.

>Acclimatise - cold water shock kills and jumping or diving into cold water can cause a gasp reflex, which may cause you to inhale water, followed by rapid breathing panic and possibly drowning. Paddling/wading gives your body the chance to adjust to the temperature and reduce the risk.

>What lies beneath – Unexpected obstacles, machinery, strong rips or currents and hidden depths are all dangers to experienced and non-experienced swimmers alike.

>If in doubt, stay out – if you’re at all unsure of the water temperature, depth or quality, or don’t know if there are hidden dangers don’t risk it. Swim at a lifeguarded area instead.

Nick Ayers, Regional Water Safety Lead at the RNLI, said: “If you do decide to go swimming – whether in open water or at a swimming pool – and end up getting into difficulty, the simplest but most important advice is Float to Live. Fight your instinct to thrash around. Lean back and extend your arms and legs. Float until you can control your breathing. Only then, call for help or swim to safety.”

For those keen to take part in open water swimming, contact outdoor swimming clubor groups who can offer advice.

Local journalism holds the powerful to account and gives people a voice. Please take out a digital subscription or buy a paper. Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.