Belfast Telegraph

Deaths prompt quarry safety talks

Quarry owners have called an emergency meeting with Environment Minister Alex Attwood over safety concerns.

They want to team up with the police, health and safety experts, schools and local councils to deal with the dangers of disused quarries.

It comes after two people drowned at a disused site near Annalong, Co Down, last weekend.

Colin Polland, 35, died while trying to save 15-year-old Kevin O'Hare who had got into difficulty while swimming with friends at an abandoned quarry on the Glassdrumman Road.

Gordon Best, regional director of the Quarry Products Association of Northern Ireland (QPANI), said his organisation needed more help to highlight the dangers.

He said: "This tragedy must be a reminder to us all about the dangers of deep, cold bodies of water that collect in old disused quarries, of which Northern Ireland has hundreds. We are appealing to everyone of influence, including the media, to help us pass on this important message to young people - 'Stay out, stay safe'."

QPANI is calling for a working group, led by the Department of the Environment, to be set up to identify difficulties around ownership of the 3,000 abandoned quarries in Northern Ireland.

In March Mr Attwood wrote to councils requesting they tighten up administration issues. According to the QPANI almost half of quarry owners experienced problems with trespass over the past year with 22% entering sites illegally to swim.

Mr Best added: "Our industry has worked extremely hard to deter trespassers through fencing off operational quarries, erecting warning signs and working with schools and youth groups to educate young people about the hazards. However many of the old quarries across Northern Ireland have been left unregulated and with easy access. There now needs to be collective action to make sure we do all we can to improve safety at these old sites."

The meeting is due to take place on June 18.

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