Posted: Thu 30th May 2024

Water safety call as number of drowning deaths in young people in Wales rises

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Water Safety Wales has issued a call for increased vigilance and education as the number of accidental drowning deaths among young people in Wales rises for the second year in a row.

The organisation, a collaboration of groups working to reduce drowning incidents in Wales, emphasised the importance of learning key safety tips to help keep young people safe around open water.

The latest statistics reveal that seven people under the age of 20 died in accidental water-related fatalities in Wales in 2023, marking the highest number since the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID) began collecting comparable data in 2015.

Overall, Wales recorded 28 accidental water-related deaths in 2023, up from 22 the previous year, and 55 total water-related fatalities, an increase of seven from the previous year.

Chris Cousens, Chair of Water Safety Wales, expressed deep concern over the tragic incidents, stating, “Everyone connected to Water Safety Wales was deeply saddened to hear of the tragic incidents involving young people losing their lives in open water in Wales last year. We believe that one drowning is one too many and the impact of losing a young person to drowning cannot be underestimated.”

To combat this alarming trend, Water Safety Wales is promoting four lifesaving tips:

  1. Stop and think: Evaluate the safety of the swimming location, checking for hazards, hidden currents, and depth.
  2. Stay together: Always swim with someone else.
  3. Float: If you get into trouble, float to calm yourself before seeking help.
  4. Call 999 or 112: If you see someone in trouble, call emergency services immediately.

The call to action is particularly urgent as more young people head to the sea, rivers, and other open water locations with the onset of warmer weather and school holidays.

Mr Cousens warned about the dangers of cold water shock, which can cause panic and gasping, emphasising the need for calm and safety.

Huw Irranca-Davies, Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, underscored the importance of water safety, saying, “Water is a fundamental part of our lives in Wales. However, with this beauty and bounty comes a firm responsibility: to do our utmost to ensure that our waters are safe for everyone.”

Carlene McAvoy, Senior Policy Manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), added, “We are saddened by the figures that show accidental water-related deaths in 2023 rose from 2022 in Wales. The data also shows that more than half of accidental fatalities involved everyday activities, which is also a cause for concern and action.”

The new data highlights several critical insights:

  • 76% of accidental fatalities were male, with the highest risk age group being males aged 10-19.
  • 59% of accidental fatalities occurred inland, indicating significant dangers in rivers, lakes, and other inland waters.
  • Everyday activities accounted for 52% of these fatalities, pointing to the need for increased awareness during routine activities near water.
  • Alcohol was a factor in two accidental fatality reports, underscoring the added risk of substance use around water.

Water Safety Wales is actively supporting the National Water Safety Forum’s #RespectTheWater campaign, which provides simple lifesaving advice to encourage personal responsibility for water safety. The campaign will gain further attention during World Drowning Prevention Day on 25th July.

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