WITH the start of the school summer holidays just days away and warm weather Worcestershire, people in the county are being reminded of the dangers of swimming in open water.
Almost exactly a year ago 17-year-old Russell O’Neill of Ronskwood, Worcester, drowned at Gullet Quarry in the Malvern Hills and just days later 22-year-old Justas Juzenas of Three Crosses Road, Ross-on-Wye died in the same lake.
Figures from the Royal Life Saving Society UK show 85 per cent of accidental drowning happen in open water and every summer police receive calls about people jumping off bridges into rivers to cool off and getting into difficulty while swimming in reservoirs, pools, lakes, quarries and canals.
West Mercia Police Superintendent Mark Travis said taking a dip could be very appealing during spells of hot weather but could have tragic consequences.
“The deaths we have experienced locally over the past year are a stark illustration of just how hazardous it can be,” he said.
“While those dangers are ever-present we are keen to highlight it now that the schools are breaking up for summer and children will have more time on their hands.
“A hot spell usually results in some youngsters making a beeline for stretches of open water and they need to be aware of the risks.”
He said it was often difficult to judge the depth of water, the strength of currents and whether there were rocks, weeds or other debris beneath the surface.
The shock of suddenly being immersed in cold water can cause a condition known as vagal inhibition or reflex cardiac arrest, which can cause instant death.
Supt Travis appealed to parents to ensure their children were aware of the dangers of swimming in open water and kept an eye on youngsters when playing outside.
“We don’t want to appear to be killjoys but people need to be encouraged to stay safe – we really don’t want any more fatalities,” he said.
“Unless there is adequate supervision and rescue cover our advice would be not to get into open water in the first place and if you need to cool off head for a public swimming pool instead.”