Just recently the English newspapers and media have reported the ongoing tragedies of men. women, and children on the beaches losing their lives to the sea. Oh yes these latest deaths may make the headlines, but they are the tip of the iceberg, aren’t they? Yes, we get over a hundred and fifty deaths on our UK coasts each year and that is going to continue until people get a grip, won’t it?
There is nothing in life like the stupidity of people, is there? No, but it seems that our modern society now suffers from collective stupidity when it comes to water, wouldn’t you say?
We live on an island surrounded by the sea, so that everybody is within some 50 miles of the coast and we have 20 thousand miles of it including the main islands, bays, headlands, and peninsulas. On top of that there are say 3 thousand miles of rivers and canals, perhaps 10 thousand water filled former gravel pits, and probably 50 reservoirs containing more than 11/2 MILLION cubic meters of water [you might add to all that marsh and flooded land to boot]. You could say that we are all not only surrounded by water but within touching distance of it all the time as well – and that is not about the rain!
It is hardly surprising then is it that swimming is the highest participation sport in England with millions of adults taking part?
You would think that under these circumstances that we would all be aware of the dangers that water could pose to each of us and our loved ones, so treat it with knowledge, familiarity and respect wouldn’t you? But it seems not. Not only do we suffer getting on for four hundred drowning and water deaths a year, but there are also numerous close calls when people are in fact rescued, totalling in the region of another five hundred (and almost a couple hundred are admitted to hospital to boot).
The basic problem starts with parents though, doesn’t it? Yep, too many of them don’t ensure that their children have swimming skills, do they? Almost half of our children cannot swim, and that shows a dire lack of parental responsibility in this Country, doesn’t it? There are public swimming pools available in every area of the Country, but these irresponsible parents want to abdicate that major responsibility of swimming training to any others, like say their children’s schools – and that doesn’t gel, does it? One in ten children will consequently have an accident in water, and many of those who die in water are still teenagers. If somebody can’t swim then they are at considerably greater risk whenever they come in contact with open water, which they surely will many times in their lives.
Then, people don’t even appreciate where they are at risk from water – they are not risk aware when they head for the seaside, or find themselves at harbours, docks, marinas and inland or coastal ports. In the Summer months, when the sun is out, and the temperature soars, some people simply lose all common sense and sometimes their lives to boot. There is nothing more natural than to have a dip in the water to cool down, so often without a care in the world there is a rush into the sea, or a jump into the river, a dunk in the canal, or a dive into the local gravel pit. A major risk that ‘everyone’ should know about is that cold water is a killer, and even on the hottest day some water is a damn sight colder than you would think, so the shock on the body on entering it is so great that people basically die of a heart attack rather than simply drown. In a gravel pit there is also the further risk of vegetation around the edges which can snag on legs and pull the swimmer under to an inglorious heart-rending death.
At the coast, most beaches are not supervised by lifeguards, so adults need to be aware of the local conditions, think for themselves and more importantly properly supervise their children. Some idiotically ignore the warning signs that identify dangerous areas for swimming, and naively think they are more capable and powerful than the sea – only to die as a result.
The most tragic cases occur when people, often with children, think that the sea is a bit wild, but that it can be a bit of fun to challenge it – they don’t think about the potential consequences, do they? It is not showing courage to face an angry sea but utter foolhardiness. Oh yes, most times by doing so they get away with it, while in a few others they get swamped by a rogue wave that sweeps them all into the sea or onto the rocks with regular fatal consequences (some of their bodies are never found and that only exacerbates the pain left behind). It is like playing Russian roulette, and none of us would expect to do that, eh?
On the beaches, it doesn’t take much effort to find out about the local conditions, but most people rarely bother, do they? Now that is OK if they, their friends, and any children never dain to go near the water at all, but that never happens does it? No, over a hundred lose their lives, and the majority of those who die on our beaches never intended to go into the water in the first place, did they?
Then there are those who without thinking often walk out a long way to see the receded estuary tide without any concept of how fast the water will return to the shore, so when it comes in like a rocket it ends up trapping them every now and again as it does so, and many more families have their lives blighted.
Then there are those that mistakenly happen to fall in water, perhaps a stumble in the dark into the freshwater river in the town after a boozing session, or a slip on a walk by a local steam, lake or reservoir – and those account for half the overall fatalities we see. Most people don’t know what to do when they unexpectedly end up in water – the answer is to keep afloat and call for help.
Some people indeed do drown in swimming pools, but in public ones which are those with lifeguards, that is relatively rare, thank goodness.
One of the greatest group of saddos are those who have garden ponds and don’t understand an iota about the severe risk they present to toddlers. Householders who have these unprotected garden features and very young children of their own or even who visit, need their heads examined. Very young kids are top heavy and when they lean over to look in the pond, perhaps at the fish, their head pulls them over and they topple in, whence they drown – a half dozen meet that fate every year and still people never learn, do they? The only safe pond is one that has been filled in and flowers planted or a play-pit created, while there are such youngsters around.
[The sea, open water and our rivers are a wonderful asset to the Country, but they must be treated with due awareness, caution, and care so that lives are not needlessly lost]