Water safety event focuses on drowning danger

The recent sunny weather means many people will be thinking about taking a quick dip in a river or lake but that could be a fatal mistake.

This Sunday (April 29th), Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), along with Northumbria Police are hosting a water safety event highlighting the dangers of swimming in open water and the devastating effects of cold water shock.

The event takes place between 11am and 3pm on the River Tyne at eastern end of Newcastle Quayside outside of the North building to support the National Fire Chief’s Council’s Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week (23rd to 29th April).

Our Swift Water Rescue Crews from Byker Community Fire Station, along with Prevention & Education staff and volunteers, will be on hand to provide water safety advice, guidance and education leaflets near to the Millennium Bridge.

We will perform a number of live demonstrations, including the safe rescue of live casualties from the river including that of our Assistant Chief Fire Officer Alan Robson (at approx. 1pm). Northumbria Police will also be demonstrating their underwater search and recovery equipment.

We, and Northumbria Police, will have vehicles and stalls set up on the Quayside, allowing the public to see how we work and what equipment we use to perform water rescues.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Alan Robson, TWFRS, said: “Drowning in the UK is amongst the leading causes of accidental death and most people would be shocked to hear that nearly half of the 315* people who drowned in 2016 weren’t even swimming – they were taking part in everyday activities near water like walking or running.

“We want everybody to ‘Be Water Aware’ – don’t assume you’re not at risk of drowning because you don’t intend to go in the water. By highlighting the issue and making sure people hear and follow our simple safety messages, we hope to reduce the numbers of these needless deaths.”

TWFRS Crew Manager Dave Irwin will also be talking to the public on the day about the dangers of not going near the open water if you have been drinking alcohol and Cold Water Shock and drowning prevention, along with Beckie Ramsey.

Dave’s son Ross drowned in the River Wear in December 2016 aged 22 after a night-out at his local pub in Fatfield. His body was found on Christmas Eve 100 yards along from where he fell in.

Dave said: “Ross was an inspiration. Despite being diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a toddler, Ross never let the condition affect him. He was fun loving, genuine, selfless, caring and funny. He never let his disability get in the way of his life and he lived life to the full.

Beckie’s son Dylan drowned aged 13 while swimming in a disused quarry near Chorley, Lancashire. Dylan was a strong swimmer but got into difficulties as his body went into shock because of the plummeting water temperature.  She now runs a water safety campaign called Doing It for Dylan to educate people about the dangers of Cold Water Shock –

You can find all of our Water Safety guides and advice for being near water and in open water at

* Fatality statistics from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID)