VISITORS to Yorkshire’s beaches have been warned to respect the water after it was revealed that 29 people lost their lives around the north of England coast last year - the highest number in four years.
Coastal fatality figures released yesterday showed the scale of coastal water deaths, with 167 killed nationally last year - more than the number who died in cycling accidents.
In the last four years, 12 people have died on the coastlines of East and North Yorkshire, the RNLI said as it launched a major drowning awareness campaign.
The number of near-misses was even higher, with 52 lives being saved by the RNLI’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards in the north last year.
Michael Avril, the RNLI’s Community Incident Reduction Manager for the north of England, said: “With more people losing their lives at the coast each year than are killed in cycling accidents, we’re trying to make people, particularly men, realise that they are at risk from drowning if they don’t follow some basic but important safety advice.
“Of course we want people to go to the coast and enjoy it, but we want people to understand there are risks, and that they should not underestimate the power of the sea.”
Adult men account for two thirds of northern coastal deaths, and the causes of incidents is casual, everyday use of the coast.
Swimming and general leisure use of the water accounted for 20 of the coastal deaths in the north since 2010, and slips and falls while walking and running accounted for 27.
Alcohol consumption is also a contributing factor in around one-fifth of the coastal fatalities in the north. Cold water shock, rip currents and fatigue are common contributing factors.
Mr Avril urged visitors to Yorkshire’s beaches to download its RNLI Lifeguard app, which identifies the nearest RNLI lifeguarded beach. RNLI lifeguards are currently based at beaches at Whitby, Scarborough, Bridlington, Hornsea, Saltburn and Withernsea.
He said: “As we enjoy this periods of really nice weather, it’s driving people toward Yorkshire’s beaches. But if you’re going near the water choose a lifeguarded beach.
“Remember that, despite warm air temperatures, the UK sea temperature is cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock, so acclimatise gradually in shallow water. Don’t over-estimate your ability – the sea is a very different environment to a pool and even the strongest swimmers can tire quickly.”
England rugby player James Haskell yesterday helped the RNLI launch its Respect the Water campaign.
He said: “This campaign isn’t about telling people not to go into the water - in fact, quite the opposite. This is about being smart and safe when you are there. The water is the opponent that never tires, so make sure you’re never put to the test.”