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Life-saving “throw lines” are to be sited at four of Shrewsbury’s most notorious drowning hotspots.

In a joint move involving the fire service, police, councils and The Samaritans, specially designed display boards featuring pictorial instructions on how to use the throw lines will be erected at the four riverside locations that have seen the highest number of drownings, suicides and suicide attempts.

The first throw line board was unveiled this week by Kirsty Walsh whose husband, Shane, was found drowned in the river close to the ‘Quantum Leap’ sculpture last September. The board carries an inscription dedicating it to Mr Walsh.

Mrs Walsh has since been appointed an ambassador to the West Mercia Search & Rescue team (WMSAR) and has campaigned for improved water safety measures and promoted greater awareness of the dangers posed by rivers and open water.

“I am so pleased and proud that so much positive good has been achieved as a result of Shane’s death and these throw line boards are another big step forward in making the river safer for everyone,” Kirsty said.

Three other throw lines boards will be sited at Victoria Avenue in Quarry Park, the Greyfriars footbridge and the weir at Castlefields.

The throw lines project follows a drive by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) for similar boards to be installed at drowning hotspots across the UK.

James Bainbridge, Shropshire Fire & Rescue’s Prevention team manager, says the boards will provide passers-by with a means of helping someone in the water without risking their own lives by getting into the water themselves.

“The boards are uniquely numbered and that will help identify the exact location of an incident very quickly,” Mr Bainbridge said.

Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion, who supports WMSAR through grant funding said “I’d like to commend all those involved in this project, and other wider work, to improve water safety. By working together, lives will be saved.”

The throw lines are protected by a combination lock and to get access to the throw line users have to dial 999 and give the postcode in order to get the lock combination.

“It should only take a few seconds for a caller to dial 999, get the lock combination and use the throw line and while they do that fire crews will be on their way to the scene,” James Bainbridge added.

The multi-agency project has brought together a range of organisations including Shrewsbury Town Council and Shropshire Council.

Lianne Deathridge, a member of Shropshire Council’s emergency planning team, described the throw lines project as “a really positive move” and added: “The longest river in the country runs through the centre of Shrewsbury and that poses a risk that these throw lines should help to reduce.”

Shrewsbury Town Council clerk, Helen Ball, also welcomed the move. “The town council is pleased to be involved in a project that we believe could save lives.”

Issued: Monday 3rd September 2018