Water safety alert as hot spell continues

More than 10 people die from drowning every month, according to Irish Water Safety, which has urged vigilance across Ireland’s swimming spots for National Water Safety Awareness Week.

The campaign coincides with a spell of warm weather which, so far, has seen thousands flock to beaches, lakes, and rivers.

However, statistics released by Irish Water Safety show that while 40% of people live within 5km of the coast, the majority of drownings (62%) take place inland at rivers and lakes.

Irish Water Safety’s statistics say 80% of drownings occur within a victim’s home county “relatively close to their respective homes”.

“Such statistics reinforce the importance of learning how to stay safe in, on and around water, yet a recent IWS survey of 1,000 households established that over half of respondents did not possess an ability to swim at all or are uncomfortable doing so,” the water safety body said at the launch of an annual campaign.

Last year, a total of 123 people died by drowning, figures suggested.

“The vast majority of drownings last year, 82, were accidental,”Irish Water Safety said.

“Drownings by suicide were 29, and 12 were of an undetermined cause. Accidental drownings typically occur when people overestimate their own ability and underestimate the risk. In terms of risky behaviour, the adage ‘boys will be boys’ appears to be reflected in the fact that 80% of accidental drownings were male.

“Even so, people still overestimate their own abilities, reflected in the fact that, last year, lifeguards trained and assessed by Irish Water Safety prevented 649 people from drowning. Of equal concern is the tendency for some parents to leave children unattended at lifeguarded waterways.

“Last year, 663 children were found lost and unaccompanied beside the water.”

The statutory body has advised the public to swim at waterways with lifeguards, which are listed on iws.ie.

Water Babies, a baby and toddler swim school, noted 37 children aged 14 and under died as a result of drowning over a 10-year period up to 2014 in Ireland.

Carol McNally from Water Babies suggested babies should be introduced to the water as early as possible “so they are less likely to experience fear if they do fall in”.

“In most cases, it’s the shock of sudden submersion that causes children to panic,” Ms McNally said.

“Swimming lessons can take place from birth, our youngest swimmer was only one-day-old and, over the last few years, a dozen of our pupils have saved themselves from drowning.

“We structure our programme to reflect children’s natural development phases and our little swimmers learn through repetitive teaching, word association, play and regular classes.”

National Water Safety Awareness Week began yesterday, a day after two young boys got into difficulty while swimming at Nealon’s Quay near Youghal, Co Cork. They were rescued by holidaymakers.

One of the boys was airlifted to CUH via a Coastguard Rescue 117 helicopter. It is believed his injuries were not life-threatening, having been kept in hospital for observation.


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