Plea for York river safety campaign after latest deaths – but railings ruled out

The River Ouse. Photograph: YorkMix

The mum of a young woman who died in the River Ouse has made a plea for a campaign to raise awareness of the danger of the city’s rivers – after three people tragically lost their lives in eight days.

The body of missing York man Lee Evennett was recovered from the River Foss last Saturday.

A woman in her 70s was discovered in the River Ouse on Friday, and the body of a man was recovered near Blue Bridge on Sunday.

A woman was also rescued from the water near Lendal Bridge on Saturday evening.

Loss of loved ones

Jackie Roberts
Jackie Roberts, who campaigned for river safety after her daughter Megan died in the Ouse following a night out in January 2014, said it was sad to see yet more deaths in the city’s rivers.

She said:

  • Obviously, the circumstances around each of the recent deaths in York’s rivers are different, but that does not make them any less tragic.

    Every incident is different, but each time somebody will be grieving for a lost loved one.

    The most important factor in prevention is education and training. Someone has to die before anything gets done, and it tends to be grieving relatives who have to find the energy to try and make things happen.

Megan Roberts

The council has ruled out putting up railings alongside the river.

A spokeswoman said they will continue to work with organisations to improve river safety.

Tom Brittain, the council’s assistant director for community safety, said: “Our sincere sympathies go to the families affected by the recent river fatalities.

“Whilst placing railings along the entire length of York’s rivers is not practical, given that much of the land is in private ownership, we continue to work proactively to improve river safety in the city centre and to ensure that appropriate preventative measures are taken.”

The council carried out a review in 2014 to improve river safety and Mr Brittain said the York Rescue Boat and vigilance of door staff of riverside businesses have been “extremely successful in preventing potential fatalities”.

Ladders and chains

The York Rescue Boat crew
Dave Horn, senior operations manager at York Rescue Boat, stressed that various measures had already been introduced to improve river safety in recent years, including new ladders to help people get out of the water and chains on the bankside which people could hold on to if they fell in the river.

Guildhall councillor Janet Looker said the recent deaths are “worrying” and a difficult issue to tackle.

But she said there is reluctance from the public to see the river fenced off, adding: “There was some additional fencing put up at key areas where it was felt there was a bigger risk of someone falling in.

“I think we all have to be aware of the risks, and be watchful for other people so that we can look out for each other.”

Micklegate councillor Lars Kramm added: “Every tragic case is different and there is no way to prevent all the cases if you do not want to cage in the river completely.

“Across all parties, preventing death in the river is a major concern an there are measures we have already put in place in the last years like better-maintained rescue equipment, updated and replaced grab rails and chains and more and better integration between the rescue services and with the wonderful rescue boat team.”

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