Open water death numbers continue to fall in County Durham
The number of open water deaths in County Durham has fallen for the fourth year in a row.
Figures from Durham County Council (DCC) showed there were no fatalities from open water incidents in 2017/18, down from one the year before and seven in 2014/15.
However, the numbers also showed that despite the efforts of safety campaigners plenty still fail to heed warnings, with seven ‘near misses’ and eight injuries in the county last year.
Explaining the data to members of DCC’s Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel, Kevin Lough, the council’s occupational health and safety manager, said: “The geography across the county is a huge challenge in the main.
“Within [Durham City] there’s student residents and community conflict that we’ve had in the past.
“There’s an increase in students and an increase in risks too.”
He added: “This year we started analysing data in greater detail, which has shown in the last 10 years we’ve had 90 reported incidents and six fatalities in the city centre.”
“About 80% involved alcohol and 80% of fatalities involved those aged 18-24.”
Analysis has shown the areas around Elvet Bridge, Baths Bridge and Framwellgate Bridge were the main hotspots for open water incidents in Durham City over the last decade.
During that period, Thursdays and Saturdays were most likely to be when someone ended up in the water, accounting for more than a third of reported incidents.
Council officers have worked with the Durham Students’ Union to improve safety awareness in the city centre.
Elsewhere in the county, the Dying to be Cool campaign to raise the profile of the dangers of cold water shock is thought to have reached about 10,000 pupils.
The panel’s chairman, Coun David Boyes, raised concerns that some schools were turned away from the chance to participate in the scheme.
He was told by Mr Lough this was because of the limited availability of Fiona Gosling, whose 14 year son Cameron died from cold water shock after jumping into the River Wear near Bishop Auckland.
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service