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The West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner is backing a campaign, calling for no more river deaths, after 429 people drowned across England in the last year*.

West Mercia Search and Rescue (WMSAR) are a charity, partially funded through a PCC grant who consist entirely of volunteers, and are regularly called to assist in water recoveries. They launched the Home and Dry Campaign, with the backing of the charity’s ambassador Kirsty Walsh, who was widowed with two children, after her young husband drowned.

WMSAR created a Water Safety Course suitable for all ages, with information on the dangers of water and how to rescue someone in trouble. The course is available online or as an offline version which can be delivered to schools and colleges. Their volunteers have been carrying out river safety patrols at stretches of the river near to pubs and clubs on busy evenings, to keep communities safe.

The Commissioner and West Mercia Police are helping to back the campaign, to ensure water safety messages reach more people, particularly in the hot summer months when there is a spike in the number of people drowning.

Commissioner John Campion said “There are too many avoidable water deaths across West Mercia, and I am committed to working with WMSAR to give our communities information and advice which will keep them safe.

“Accidental drownings pull resources from our emergency and volunteer services- the advice is simple- steer clear of open water. The commendable work of volunteers and the charity’s ambassador Kirsty Walsh has brought this important issue to light, and it’s important we build this awareness to have no more river deaths.”

Andy MacAuley Chairman of West Mercia Search and Rescue said “West Mercia SAR’s crews train hard to stay safe around water, and we wanted to push some of the key life-saving tips, which anyone can use, to the public. Thousands of people have completed our free online course, and we hope that this could save lives in the period before our colleagues from Fire & Rescue are able to get units to an incident.

“Basic rescue techniques and practical advice on the unseen dangers that water can hide are packaged up in to a 30-minute course which we think that anyone who lives, plays or works near the water could get involved with.”

West Mercia Police Chief Superintendent Kevin Purcell said: “We fully support the Home and Dry campaign and are grateful for the work the volunteers at West Mercia Search and Rescue along with RNLI and the fire service are doing right across the West Mercia area to raise awareness of the importance of water safety.

“We may be some distance from the coast but right across the area there are many lakes, rivers and quarries all of which are great places to visit but as with any open water they do pose a risk. Tragically too many people have lost their lives as a result of going into unsafe water causing untold grief to their loved ones. Even if the water looks calm or someone thinks they are a strong swimmer they can get caught out and end up getting into difficulty, the power of the current should never be underestimated and we would urge people to only ever swim in open water in a controlled environment.”

For more information on the Home and Dry Campaign click here.

*Data is taken from the National Water Safety Forum, 2017 Annual Fatal Incident Report

Issued: Thursday 2nd August 2018