Luminous ladders and CCTV 'could help improve safety after five deaths in York's rivers'

There have been calls for action to prevent more tragedies on York's rivers Picture Bruce Rollinson
There have been calls for action to prevent more tragedies on York's rivers Picture Bruce Rollinson
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Installing thermal imaging cameras and making ladders glow in the dark on York's rivers were among safety measures put forward following the deaths of five young people in three weeks earlier this year.

York Water Safety Forum met to discuss initiatives to improve safety after the tragedies, which involved youngsters whose average age was just 20.

Minutes of the meeting, released following a Freedom of Information request, show painting the top of the ladders on the waters’ edge with phosphorescent paint and putting a mental health helpline phone number on city centre benches were among proposals.

Other suggestions included showing water safety videos on the big screen at York Racecourse, encouraging private riverside landowners to introduce prevention measures, and educating students about the dangers of rivers.

The minutes say data showed previous incidents happened in “quite a tight location”, mostly between 11pm and 3am.

The average age of victims was 20 and the gender ratio was 12 males to three females.

Stuart Simpson from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said collecting data is important because it will help the group plan what safety measures could be introduced and where.

However it has proven “really difficult” to get information, including about where people entered the river and in what circumstances.

He said: “Capturing the near misses might give us a clue – is it at the bridges, for example.

“In the fire service we look at what lessons can be learned from fatalities and would like to apply the same template to the tragic deaths in the rivers.

“But every one has been different so there are not a lot of trends.

“Five deaths in the space of three weeks is unacceptable. We are doing the best that we can and have some very proactive partners.”

The group has organised training sessions with riverside pubs, clubs and restaurants – helping staff learn how to rescue people and providing businesses with life-saving equipment and knowledge.

The University of York said new students have a river safety talk as part of a welcome event at the campus and that the organisation is committed to the city-wide campaign.

The university also runs a scheme where volunteers patrol key routes across in York to ensure young people get home safely.

The mothers of two York river victims called for action to prevent more tragedies earlier this year.

Sharon Scott – mother of 29-year-old Steven O’Neill who died on April 20 – and Kate Ferry – whose 19-year-old son Sonny died on April 13 – called for action to prevent tragedies after a fifth person drowned in the city’s rivers in the space of three weeks.