World Drowning Prevention day: More than 20 people have drowned in the UK this week

By Ethan Shone
Sunday, 25th July 2021, 1:27 pm
World Drowning Prevention day: More than 20 people have drowned in the UK this week (Photo: FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP via Getty Images)

Experts are calling for further safety measures and education around the dangers of open water swimming after more than 20 people drowned in the UK last week. 

The high number of accidents in Britain’s waters comes as organisations mark World Drowning Prevention Day (25 July).  

At least 24 people have died in open water this week as temperatures have soared above 30 degrees in parts of the country

This includes a man who went missing after jumping into a river in Wakefield with an inflatable, and a 16-year old who drowned in the River Dee, Chester 

Bodies have been pulled from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, the sea and flooded quarries. 

People who do decide to swim are being urged to “always check weather conditions and tide times before going out”.

Last year there were 242 accidental deaths in water, according to the National Water Safety Forum, of which the majority were young men who died in the sea

What is World Drowning Prevention Day?

Backed by international agencies like the UN and World Health Organisation, the campaign hopes to encourage action by governments and other agencies to take the following steps to prevent drowning:

  • Installing barriers controlling access to water providing safe places away from water such as crèches for pre-school children with capable childcare
  • Teaching swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills
  • Training bystanders in safe rescue and resuscitation
  • Setting and enforcing safe boating, shipping and ferry regulations
  • Improving flood risk management

Claire Hughes, director of HM Coastguard, said: “We can’t emphasise this enough – the sea has no respect for whether you’re local or not and whether you’re experienced or not.

'Extremely irresponsible'

Some water companies have criticised experienced open-water swimmers.

Mark Seymour, United Utilities’ catchment manager for Manchester, explains: “Open water swimmers have been noticed at a few of our reservoirs recently including Errwood and Swineshaw, Glossop.

“They turn up in wetsuits, they’re usually adults, and ignore the fact that swimming is prohibited.

“Not only should they know better than to ignore the warning signs but they’re also setting a dangerous example because other younger people might see them swimming and get the wrong impression that it’s ok to swim too.

“These open water swimmers could indirectly be the cause of another drowning tragedy. It’s extremely irresponsible.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Ashley Jones, water safety and drowning prevention manager for Swim England said: “The swimmer that turns up having acclimatised to cold water, in a wetsuit, with a brightly coloured hat and a tow float is not the problem. 

“The people that we need to do a better job educating are those who, unfortunately, on a hot day decide to jump in spontaneously.”