River Wear safety campaign after deaths of three students

SEARCH TEAMS: Police from the Marine Unit on Framwelgate Bridge in Durham  after they were called following the discovery of Euan Coulthard in the water nearby.

SEARCH TEAMS: Police from the Marine Unit on Framwelgate Bridge in Durham after they were called following the discovery of Euan Coulthard in the water nearby.

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FIRE crews drafted in to search for students who were later found dead in the River Wear will take their campaign to keep people safe back to the waterside.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service will mark Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week from Monday, with part of their efforts to be centred around Framwellgate Bridge in Durham.

Sope Peters, who died after going missing in Durham.

Sope Peters, who died after going missing in Durham.

The bodies of Durham University students Euan Coulthard, who died in January, Sope Peters, who died in October last year, and Luke Pearce, who died in the May, were recovered by the service’s water rescue crews after lengthy searches following their disappearances.

Fire and rescue bosses say the campaign, which is being co-ordinated nationally for the first time by the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) will take on added significance in the region following the tragic deaths.

The focus of Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week falls on inland water, including rivers, reservoirs, lakes, canals as well as water-filled quarries, and aims to reduce preventable deaths, especially in the 16 to 30 age group. The highest number of water-related deaths were of those aged from 20 to 24 in 2013.

Events to be held as part of the week will include a video wall installation on Framwellgate Bridge in Durham from 10am to 3pm on Thursday and Friday, when crews will be running demonstrations and displaying water rescue equipment.

Luke Pearce, who was found dead in the River Wear.

Luke Pearce, who was found dead in the River Wear.

Beer mats listing the vital safety messages will also be distributed to Durham University and to riverside Durham’s bars to remind drinkers of the dangers in the coming weeks.

They will also be at Chester-le-Street Rowing Club on the River Wear on Monday from 5pm to get across the “fatal five” issues of water safety.

These highlight the dangers of cold water shock, dangers beneath the water surface which could trap people, currents or water conditions and the difficulties which can be caused by drinking and swimming competency.

Andy Bruce, the service’s assistant community protection and prevention manager, said: “As we know only too well in this region, water safety is of the highest importance.

Euan Coulthard.

Euan Coulthard.

“We hope that by highlighting the ‘fatal five’ dangers during Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week, we will stress the importance of taking care near inland waterways.

“The events the service has planned also aim to remind young people, in particular, to look out for themselves and their friends to prevent any more lives being cut short in such tragic accidents.”