Second case of Throwline vandalism at James Steel Park

L to R - Mark Hayes, Prevention and Education Station Manager with Tommy Richardson, Prevention and Education Firefighter for @twfrs and Councillor Tony Taylor, Washington East councillor and Chair of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority at the vandalised throwline board at Pattinson South Pond in Washington.

Tyne and Wear FRS has joined forces with our partners Sunderland City Council and Northumbria Police to call for help with finding those behind an attack on vital water safety equipment in Washington.

The lock on the casing of a Throwline Board at Pattinson South Pond was smashed open during an attack last weekend.

This is the second time in less than two years since it was installed that the throwline has been vandalised. Last October the throwline itself was stolen and its casing smashed open during an attack.

Designed to be thrown to anyone who gets into difficulty in the water, the throwline was installed in February 2020 by the local authority and the Fire Service to help prevent drownings. Following the attack, the throwline has had to be removed for safekeeping until the lock can be replaced.

Steven Thomas, Head of Prevention and Education, said:

“The throwlines are an important piece of equipment that can ultimately help to save somebody’s life if they become distressed in the water.  In a drowning situation every second counts and if a crucial component in the person’s rescue has been vandalised then it could be the resulting factor between life or death.  It is that serious.

“We have installed a number of throwlines near to waterways across Tyne and Wear with the knowledge they are on-hand to vitally assist any passers-by, friends, family members or emergency service crews who may be coming to a person’s aid.  Please respect these essential items as it could be you or a loved one who requires assistance and if the equipment isn’t in full working order then it could hamper the rescue.

“This is particularly relevant at this time of year when the wintry weather can cause hazardous conditions under foot near to rivers, lakes and ponds, and also during the festive party season when people could be walking home and become stranded in the water.”

Washington East councillor and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority Chair, Councillor Tony Taylor, said:

“It beggars belief that anyone would stoop so low as to attack a piece of equipment which is clearly designed to help save lives. This type of behaviour is totally reckless and those behind the attack should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. I’d urge anyone with information that might help catch those behind this appalling attack to contact the police on 101.

“I’d also encourage anyone planning to go for a walk near the river or any other stretches of open water at this time of year to take extra care because it’s so easy to lose your footing and slip, especially when the ground is muddy or icy. We want everyone to stay safe over the festive period.”

Inspector Nick Gjorven, of Northumbria Police, said:

“This is absolutely mindless and those responsible can expect to be dealt with swiftly and robustly.

“This equipment is there to help save lives – which makes this act of vandalism even more disappointing. We will continue to work hand-in-hand with our partners to ensure effective justice is brought against perpetrators.”

The throwline is one of three installed on the banks of the River Wear at Washington following a series of tragic drownings over recent years.