Police defend ‘safety first’ strategy on man floating face down in lake

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POLICE defended their decision yesterday not to enter a boating lake to retrieve a man seen floating in the water so that the safety of officers was not placed at risk.

Fire crews were the first on the scene when emergency services received reports of a body face down in Walpole Park boating lake in Gosport, Hampshire, at 12.20pm on Thursday.

The man, named by police as 41-year-old Simon Burgess, of Burnhams Walk, Gosport, had been seen entering the water about 15 minutes before the emergency services arrived.

But because there were no obvious signs of life, the fire service and police decided to wait for a specialist unit to arrive to retrieve the body.

Supt Phil Winchester, of Hampshire Police, said the officers did not immediately enter the water as it may have “compromised” their safety.

He said: “Emergency services were called at 12.20pm to reports of a body face down in Walpole Park boating lake in Gosport.

“Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) were first at the scene and established a cordon; local police were next to arrive.

“On arrival police officers were told by HFRS that a body was in the water and witnesses at the scene told officers that they had seen a man enter the water up to 15 minutes before emergency services were called.

“Officers at the scene saw no obvious signs of life so immediate entry into the water was not appropriate as it may have compromised the lives of others.

“HFRS informed police officers that a specialist unit to recover the body from the water was en route from Fareham.

“The body was recovered by HFRS, before being taken away by ambulance to Queen Alexandra Hospital.

“The circumstances surrounding the man’s death are currently being investigated by police.”

A force spokesman said the death was not being treated as suspicious.

A HFRS spokesman said its fire crews, which arrived on the scene within four minutes of the 999 call, identified that the casualty “showed no visible signs of life”.

He said the force’s Water Support Unit was scrambled to retrieve the body and arrived 10 minutes after the initial fire crew.