Safety appeal after heat-wave drownings

Body of boy (17) recovered from canal at Ardnacrusha, Co Clare

Swimmers cool off during the heat wave in Seapoint, Co Dublin  yesterday. Water Safety Ireland has issued a warning, and emphasised the importance of supervising swimmers in the wake of recent deaths. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Swimmers cool off during the heat wave in Seapoint, Co Dublin yesterday. Water Safety Ireland has issued a warning, and emphasised the importance of supervising swimmers in the wake of recent deaths. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sat, Jul 13, 2013, 11:32


Renewed safety appeals have been issued this weekend as high temperatures continue to attract thousands to the water, leading to the deaths of five people in the last week.

Yesterday the body of a 17-year-old was recovered from a canal at Ardnacrusha, Co Clare, where he had been swimming with friends.

Emergency services were contacted and a search-and- rescue operation was carried out at the scene. The body was recovered at about 5.30pm.

The young man was named locally as Joe Killeen, from Meelick.

His death followed two others in similar circumstances on Thursday: a 19-year-old in Roscommon and a 10-year-old in Youghal, Co Cork.


Warning
Water Safety Ireland has issued a warning, and emphasised the importance of supervising swimmers.

“Lifeguards are not babysitters; they are there to effect a rescue or prevent it happening in the first place,” said deputy chief executive Roger Sweeney. “But unfortunately parents and guardians still leave their kids alone or they leave them beside the life guards.”

Forty children drowned in Ireland in the last 10 years, said Mr Sweeney. Last year, even without a particularly good summer, some 319 children were rescued.


Signals
Mr Sweeney said that contrary to popular belief, it was not always obvious when somebody was in serious difficulty. Signalling for help was not always possible for someone in trouble in the water. Drowning is a silent killer; don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Drowning is deceptively quiet. You will be unable to shout because your lungs are primed to breathe, so when you gasp for air you breathe first.

“You also won’t wave like you see on TV because your body will be instinctively treading water. You may struggle for no more than 60 seconds and then you are under. This is how a drowning occurs.”

Alcohol was involved in a third of fatalities while two in three (62 per cent) occurred in fresh water, he said.

There have also been renewed concerns about people jumping from buildings and bridges, often into shallow water.


Jumping
In Co Laois yesterday, the council was forced to intervene when youths were spotted jumping from the roofs of vehicles at Castletown Bridge outside Mountrath.

“The water is very murky at the moment, particularly on the Nore, and that makes it very difficult for any kind of rescue effort,” said official Anne Marie Maher.

“People jumping from those heights are at serious risk of doing damage to themselves.”

RNLI sea safety manager Kevin Rahill urged sun-seekers to make sure they could swim before getting into the water, and to be aware of any danger.

“We would warn people against swimming in strong currents and strong tides, especially rip tides,” he said.

He also warned against jumping off rocks or pier walls unless swimmers were certain there was enough water below them and no submerged obstacles.

The Irish Coast Guard urged the public to use a personal flotation device when swimming, canoeing, surfing, angling or sail boarding.