With the news of two more tragic deaths in the River Wear, in Tyne and Wear, yesterday, bringing the number of drownings during the current heatwave to 15, STA is calling for more to be done to educate children and teenagers about water safety and the dangers of swimming in open water.
Theo Millward, Operations Director at STA, the world’s largest swimming teaching and lifesaving organisation, said one drowning is tragic but 15 in the matter of a few weeks is very serious.
“While it may be tempting to leap into a river, lake or quarry to cool down, we must make the public aware of the hidden dangers of playing in and around water,” he said.
“It’s not just a case of learning to swim, as even the strongest swimmers can struggle in open water, it’s about people understanding the potential dangers that lurk beneath the surface. As swimming teachers, school teachers, parents and carers we must ensure that everyone knows how to stay safe in and around water.”
“People can become entangled in hidden debris and reeds, while the cold water can result in the body going into shock – just one gulp of cold water is all it can take.
There may also be underwater currents that can drag the body under, and the depth of the water cannot be estimated either – it may seem shallow, but in open water there can be pockets of deep water that are not clearly visible from the water’s edge. All these factors can and have resulted in someone getting tired quickly and drowning.”
Theo also calls for better water safety education in schools to ensure that children from a young age have a greater awareness of the threats and hazards that water and water environments can present.
“With young people drowning needlessly, it is abundantly clear that swimming and water safety is a life skill that should be an essential part of the education curriculum – like reading and writing,” he said.
“If a child is not introduced to football or netball at school they miss an experience. If they don’t learn to swim, and are not taught about water safety they can lose their lives.”
“I would urge anyone tempted to cool off in open water such as a reservoir, quarry or river to think again – the drownings we’ve seen in recent weeks can happen to ANYONE. The danger signs and no swimming signs are there for a reason: over-confidence and a lack of awareness are potential killers.”
- Water Safety, Health & Wellbeing