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Sunday 21 September 2014

Children don't know how to stay safe around water, warns watchdog

Published 01/07/2014 | 02:30

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Local children, Leo Rudden (8), Callum Rudden (11) and Carol Lawrence (11) lay flowers at the manmade lake at Belgree in Tyrrelstown where a 5 year old boy drowned

The State's water watchdog has warned that many of the half-a-million primary school children on their summer holidays lack an awareness of how to stay safe around water.

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The Irish Water Safety (IWS) agency urged parents to give vital water safety information to their children to help prevent further tragic drownings.

Drowning tragedies highlight the risk posed to children in the vicinity of lakes, rivers, the sea and even back garden inflatable pools, said IWS spokesman Rodger Sweeney.

"They can drown quickly and silently in just inches of water. A lot of parents think that they'll hear the yelling and see the splashing, but very often that's not the case," he said.

More than 500,000 primary school children are now on holidays, but primary schools only ordered 40,000 free water safety certificates for children from IWS last year.

Mr Sweeney said many were lacking in awareness of vital safety skills which would enable them to stay safe from drowning when playing near or in water.

Another issue highlighted by IWS and also the Irish Coast Guard has been the danger of inflatable toys.

"Children shouldn't be allowed to use inflatable toys such as air mattresses; they can drift into deep water and deflate very quickly," said Mr Sweeney.

Already this year there have been three incidents where adults who bought supermarket dinghies had to be rescued off the Co Donegal coast.

In one case, the inflatable toy had drifted two miles out to sea and neither of those on board had life jackets.

There are on average 140 drownings in Ireland each year – with 62pc of drownings occurring at inland waterways.

In one-third of cases, the drowning victims had consumed alcohol.

Soaring temperatures last summer triggered a spate of rescues by the Coast Guard, with 559 saved from drowning in July alone by lifeguards.

The IWS reported 575 children were found wandering lost beside waterways in July alone last year and reunited with guardians.

More online advice is available at www.aquaattack.ie.

Irish Independent

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