Life-saving water boards installed by Lancashire firefighters at Cuerden Valley Park

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A new scheme to improve water safety and save lives has been launched by Lancashire firefighters.

The service’s #BeWaterAware campaign on the back of 40 open water deaths in the county in the last decade.

Left, Beckie Ramsay and, top right, her son Dylan who drowned in a flooded quarry in 2011. Bottom right, emergency water exercises.

Left, Beckie Ramsay and, top right, her son Dylan who drowned in a flooded quarry in 2011. Bottom right, emergency water exercises.

We were invited to Cuerden Valley Park in Bamber Bridge to see the campaign in action, which involved placing two new water safety boards on the park’s lake banks fitted with throw ropes to assist those in trouble.

In the last decade Lancashire Fire and Rescue have been called to 40 incidents which saw death by drowning:

2009/10 - 7 deaths
2010/11 - 3 deaths
2011/12 - 4 deaths
2012/13 - 9 deaths
2013/14 - 2 deaths
2014/15 - 2 deaths
2015/16 - 2 deaths
2016/17 - 3 deaths
2017/18 - 5 deaths

Among those at the campaign launch was Beckie Ramsay.

Emily practices throwing an emergency line

Emily practices throwing an emergency line

In 2011 her 13-year-old son, Dylan Ramsay, drowned at Hill Top Quarry in Whittle-le-Woods, near Chorley.

Beckie, who now runs a campaign called Doing it for Dylan in her son’s memory, said: “I believe had one of these [boards] been in place where Dylan died, maybe the outcome would have been different.”

She added: “These are the first two of many boards that are going to be in place in Lancashire. In total this is the 46th board that we have in the country so far which is truly amazing.”

Each board has the Doing it for Dylan logo and is dedicated to someone who has lost their life in open water.

The launch of the new open water safety boards in Cuerden Valley Park

The launch of the new open water safety boards in Cuerden Valley Park

“Sadly we will never come to the end of this list of people who have lost their lives in open water,” Beckie explained.

“But if we see more boards like this in and around places like this, hopefully it will prevent other parents and other families from going through what me and my family have gone through – and are still going through today.”

One of the two boards is dedicated to David Layfield from Clayton Brook, near Chorley, who in 1995 drowned aged 13 swimming in a lake at Cuerden Valley Park.

His older brother Richard was unable to save him and it is thought that the youngster had been deceived by the icy temperature of the water on a hot day.

Tony Crook was one of the firefighters called to help David. He was also the firefighter who pulled David’s body from the water.

Tony said: “The board is important to me because in 1995 I was part of green watch Preston who responded to this emergency. I entered the water and actually retrieved the body of David.

“It was very, very tragic circumstance and these deaths are preventable.

“We don’t want other people entering water and putting themselves at risk.”

Mr Crook added: “It gives members of the public access to information but more importantly it gives them access to an emergency throw line where they can actually use that line to assist a rescue from open water but most importantly not enter the water themselves and put themselves in danger.”

Simon Thorpe, site manager from Cuerden Valley Park Trust, said: “We recognised the great work that Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service was trying to do in our community and were more than happy to have the boards installed within the park.

“It can be easy to miss the dangers of swimming in open water especially during the summer months when it can look so inviting but cold water shock and what lurks under the surface are real dangers.

“We hope that having these boards in place will not only make people reconsider their actions but also provide an aid should someone enter the water and get into difficulty.”

How do you access the emergency throw lines?

The new water safety boards at Cuerden Valley Park are equipped with emergency throw lines to assist those in difficult in open water.

But to prevent vandalism they have have been placed in padlocked boxes.

In order to access them you have to:

1) Dial 999 and ask for the fire service.
2) Quote your location e.g. LANCS01 - Clayton Brook Reservoir, Cuerden Valley Park
3) Use the emergency code given to you by the fire service to open the locked box.

Problems with anti-social behaviour

Beckie Ramsay has lambasted an apparent case of vandalism at Yarrow Valley Country Park in Chorley.

Beckie posted a photo of a burned lifebuoy to Facebook, with only the post remaining on the lakeside.

Addressing the person who did this, she said: “I hope someone you love never needs any life saving equipment that when needed is not there due to such a mindless act.”

In an update, Beckie said she had spoken to the park’s head ranger, who said this is only the second instance in which a lifebuoy has had to be replaced in 20 years.

A spokesman from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said: “In regards to Yarrow Valley, we have purposely chosen a locked canister [at Cuerden] to store the throw line by which the caller obtains the code from the 999 call handlers.

“This is in an attempt to keep the throw lines secure and away from vandals.”