Belfast Telegraph

Video: Teens dice with death at Northern Ireland reservoir - you don't know the dangers warns NI Water

By Jonathan Bell and Ben Tucker

While the crystal clear still waters of Northern Ireland's reservoirs may seem to be the ideal place to cool down as an unprecedented heatwave grips the province, NI Water has warned those doing it they are dicing with death.

There have been reports of people swimming in Killylane reservoir near Antrim over recent days. And while the Belfast Telegraph visited the idyllic location three youths were seen jumping from a tower while they were cheered on by a group watching on from the attached pier.

In the video one of the youths appears to be reluctant to jump and is goaded and pushed about by another trying to encourage him to jump in before he eventually takes a run and jump.

"Reservoirs might look like they’re safe to swim in on a hot summer’s day but they are deep and dangerous," said Cathy Uprichard, head of safety at NI Water.

"There is a real danger lying beneath the surface."

There are a number of potential hazards which may not be immediately obvious to those considering a quick dip. They include the potential for cold water shock which will see the body to shut down and impair a swimmer's ability to get to shore. Hidden machinery could also drag a swimmer down while mud on the reservoir could trap a divers feet and prevent them from being able to reach the surface.

And as well as there being no lifeguards on duty, the locations are often remote which could hamper emergency services getting to the scene should someone be in need of rescue.

“We want everyone to enjoy the warm, sunny weather we’re experiencing at the minute," continued Cathy, "However, go to the beach if you fancy a swim, never in a reservoir.”

Dangers in reservoirs include:

  • Cold water shock
    Effectively the body shuts down as blood is diverted to vital organs. While some reservoirs can be bitterly cold in places all year round, the water could be as warm as 25 degrees to have a devastating impact which can affect coordination, strength and the ability to grasp a throw line.
  • Localised Currents
    Reservoirs contain machinery and pipework beneath the surface. This can start without warning and generate currents that can pull a swimmer down.
  • Deep Water
    Some reservoirs are very deep and may have shelves or areas where the depth changes very suddenly.
  • Mud and Silt
    There may be an accumulation of silt on the bottom of the reservoir. This can be a particular hazard when jumping in as it can trap the swimmers feet preventing them from reaching the surface again.
  • Debris
    There may be submerged branches, plants or other hazards that can trap or entangle a swimmer.
  • Access and egress
    Dams, walls and other man-made structures around the bank side can be slippery and lead to a person falling into the reservoir. There may be concealed or hard objects beneath the surface causing a risk of injury.  In some areas the banks may be steep or sheer, in others slippery. This can prevent a person getting out of the reservoir.
  • Isolation
    Many reservoirs are in rural locations which can prevent access problems for emergency services - potentially extending response times.
  • No lifeguards on duty ever

Northern Ireland Water has warned of the dangers of diving into reservoirs.
Northern Ireland Water has warned of the dangers of diving into reservoirs.
Northern Ireland Water has warned of the dangers of diving into reservoirs.
Northern Ireland Water has warned of the dangers of diving into reservoirs.
Northern Ireland Water has warned of the dangers of diving into reservoirs.

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