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Campaign targets quarry swimming

Published 18/05/2015

The disused quarry in rural Co Down where Colin Polland died in a bid to save Kevin O'Hare
The disused quarry in rural Co Down where Colin Polland died in a bid to save Kevin O'Hare

A new campaign has been launched to deter people from swimming in disused quarry lakes.

It comes after Colin Polland, 39, and Kevin O'Hare, 15, drowned almost two years ago.

Mr Polland, originally from Co Down but who lived in Ilford, Essex, died trying to save the Dromara teenager at a remote water hole near Annalong in June 2013.

An inquest heard how the lake was extremely deep and bitterly cold.

Mr Polland's widow Adele and two police officers, who also attempted a rescue bid, described the debilitating effects of the icy water.

Mrs Polland said: "I felt a lot of pressure around my lungs, felt myself starting to have difficulty breathing. (It happened) very quickly when I got to the deep, coldest part of the water."

An audit of abandoned quarries was carried out by the 11 district councils in a bid to identify the main dangers.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, whose department oversees the local authorities, said: "Quarry water really is a stone cold killer.

"A sudden plunge into cold water initiates a gasp response, which can cause drowning within seconds. It also prevents one holding their breath if their head is submerged under water.

"If an individual does not get out of the water quickly, the cold takes its toll. Poor blood circulation causes stiff fingers, reduced co-ordination and loss of strength. Swimming to safety and pulling oneself out of the water may no longer be possible. One may no longer be able to grasp a rope or rescue hoist."

Other hazards include submerged machinery, hidden currents and industrial pollution.

Justice Minister David Ford, whose department has supported the safety campaign, said: "It is crucial that people understand how dangerous abandoned quarries are and the risks they are taking when they trespass into one.

"As we approach the summer break it is particularly important that parents speak to their children about the risks involved."

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