Yorkshire organisations come together to highlight importance of being water wise

Multiple organisations across Yorkshire have joined forces to encourage people to learn about the dangers of open water swimming, after recent hot weather has led to a spate of tragic water incidents on beaches and in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and canals.

Saturday, 31st July 2021, 12:00 pm
Tributes to young Bradford City footballer, Tomi Solomon, aged 13, tragically died after playing in the River Calder at Brighouse.

Due to extremely hot temperatures, people have been looking for ways to cool off, often choosing to go for a swim in the various water bodies across Yorkshire.

Unfortunately, many people have little or no experience in open water and don’t realise the dangers so quickly find themselves getting into difficulty.

In response, over 30 organisations in Yorkshire have come together for the first time to really drive home the importance of being water wise and understanding how to be safe in and around water.

All Fire and Rescue Services, Police forces and Local Resilience Forums across Yorkshire, together with several Local Authorities, Yorkshire Water, Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, the Environment Agency, Canal & River Trust, HM Coastguard, the RNLI, the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) and Outdoor Swimming Society are backing a campaign to increase awareness of the dangers of open water swimming for inexperienced people.

Dave Walton, Deputy Chief Fire Officer for WYFRS and co-Chair of West Yorkshire Prepared, 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.”

Since last summer, there have been at least 180 inland water incidents across Yorkshire, 18 of which resulted in fatalities.

One of those was in Brighouse.

Tomi Solomon died after playing in the river that runs through the town.

The 13-year-old was playing by the River Calder with friends on Tuesday June 1 when he got into difficulties, police said.

Officers were called to the river at 2.38pm and an urgent search was conducted by specialist teams.

Tragically, the teenager’s body was pulled out of the water a short time later.

Nationally, in just 10 days (from July 10 to 20, 2021) there were 10 coastal deaths. Knowing and understanding the hazards of open water – both inland and at the coast – could help to drastically reduce the number of people who get into difficulty each year.

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.

“If you see someone in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112. If you’re at the coast, ask for the Coastguard. If you’re inland, ask for the fire service.”

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