New figures reveal deaths in West Yorkshire waterways

Figures show that 46 people have lost their lives in West Yorkshire waterways in the last ten years – with the last fatality just four days ago.

Leeds District Commander Toby May

The statistics from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) show that since April 2013 there have been several deaths in the county’s rivers and canals.

Now WYFRS officers are urging the public to call 999 and ask for the fire service if anyone is in danger of drowning on any inland waterway.

On Saturday, 14-year-old George Lund drowned in a Leeds canal after jumping in while walking along the towpath. The tragic incident saw the teenager beaten by the current as he tried to swim to a ladder at the side of the River Aire, near to George Mann Road in Hunslet.

Leeds District Commander Toby May from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “As the weather gets warmer, it may be tempting to go for a swim or enter water courses, rivers and canals. However, entering such water can put people’s lives at risk due to cold water shock, which can impact even competent swimmers, as well as underwater debris and dangerous currents.

“Regrettably, this weekend we have seen the devastating consequences of entering water at inappropriate locations, where these waterways are such dangerous places to swim.  On Saturday April 8, our crews received reports of a young man entering the water at Knostrop Quay, Leeds. Two specialist water rescue teams from Leeds and two fire engines from Hunslet worked with other emergency services to deploy into the water and carry out a search and rescue.

“Our fire crews worked tirelessly to rescue the individual, but our thoughts are with the family and friends of 14-year-old George Lund who sadly passed away.

“We are urging parents and teachers to talk to children about water safety, and how important it is to keep your distance from any lakes, rivers and canals. If anyone does need assistance in inland water then call 999 immediately and ask for the fire service. Our teams are experts at water rescues, and we have the specialist equipment needed to save the lives of people who are at risk of drowning. Please enjoy the warm weather, but in a safe way and please Be Water Aware.”

What to watch out for when by water:

  • Slippery banks – the banks on rivers and lakes can be very slippery, making it hard to leave the water.
  • Rubbish – unfortunately, some people leave their rubbish in our waterways. This can harm you if you touch sharp or entangling objects.
  • Pollution – some waterways may contain dangerous chemicals which could make you ill.
  • Currents – underwater currents can be very strong and sweep you away from safety within seconds.
  • Cold temperatures – open water in the UK remains cold all year round. It can stop your muscles working properly and make you gasp for air and possibly water.
  • Water levels – the depth of open water changes and this can make wading treacherous. You should never dive in without knowing the water’s depth.
  • No lifeguard – swimming outside means you may be very isolated and nobody will be there to help if things go wrong.

If you want to go swimming, head to a purpose-built swimming pool where a lifeguard is present at all times.