WHEELS are in motion to erect clearer signage about the dangers of swimming near North Beach in Bray, following the drowning of popular local swimmer Ciarán Megannety at the location on November 13.
‘No Swimming’ signs already exist in this location, but it remains one of the most frequented areas of Bray’s strand for swimmers due to the rocks that provide space for sitting down and hanging things up.
In a statement yesterday, Bray Municipal District Councillor Erika Doyle said that she has requested a “well-located, brightly-coloured sign, preferably using a graphic so it can be understood by all nationalities and noticed by first-time swimmers”.
She explained: “The council has asked the Water Safety Officer to audit the signs in the area and I’m hopeful that we will shortly see an addition to the signage.”
Cllr Doyle added that funding has been approved for a swimming pontoon, but said a changing shelter was off the cards for the beach as the shingle surface is constantly shifting.
However, she added: “I remain in continuous conversation with the engineers to see how we can provide for those who make the most of our sea access.”
Following Ciarán’s death and subsequent funeral last Thursday, swimmers have been mourning the loss of one of the beach’s most regular visitors, some feeling wary to get back in. A large crowd gathered at the location last Sunday to hear tips on staying safe in the water from Swimming Coach Corinna Nolan, who teaches open water swimming at the location during the summer.
Her key message to swimmers is to stop swimming at that part of the beach, and to swim parallel to the shore, well within their depth. That is echoed by local lifeguard and photographer Gordon Leonard, who added that everyone should “take a few minutes to look at the sea” before they go in to assess any anomalies.
Corinna says of the area: “It looks appealing, as it is easy to access, there are rocks that people sit on to get changed, and there is some sand there. As people can be seen swimming there, this attracts others.”
She feels there is already enough signage and that more is not the answers to preventing further tragedies.
She said: “There are three, possibly four signs indicating no swimming that end, as there is a rip (dangerous current). People are oblivious to the signs, they just don’t see them.
She added: “I want people to stop swimming down that end, and move down the beach just a little bit to where we will all be safe.”
Gordon, a Bray native with a passion for the sea, agrees. He says the area has always attracted local swimmers pointing out it offers some shelter from the elements, and Bray beach doesn’t have any swim huts or shelters.
Corinna’s thoughts were also echoed by Cllr Melanie Corrigan, who said: “Swimmers need to stay clear of the north end of the beach as it is unsafe with signage pointing this out. We must move further down towards the lifeguards hut and not be tempted by the small bit of sand and easier access at the dangerous end.”
Corinna told the crowd on Sunday how they could reduce the chances of getting in to difficulty at the beach, explaining where and what the dangerous current is in that area.
“If you have the wind heading north and the tide heading north it can be dangerous,” she said. “If the tide and winds are going south, it can be a safer place to swim. You need to know what to look out for. The river’s tidal flow (coming into the sea via the harbour) has an impact also. When Ciarán got taken out that day, the wind was going north and so was the tide, and this probably took him out.”
She advises swimmers to consider using tow floats, wear bright coloured swimming hats and where possible swim with others.
Gordon seconded this advice, adding: “I’d recommend wearing a floatation device around the waste and possibly a whistle, never swim by yourself and always inform people where you are swimming.”
Concluding, Corinna spoke of her love of the swimming community in Bray, which she says is a particularly strong and welcoming group.
Corinna said: “The swimming community in Bray is a lovely community where everyone is so positive, everyone says good morning. I have friends from other swim groups come along and comment on how friendly everyone is. Unfortunately Ciarán has lost his life, but he was such a lovely man, always smiling, always willing to help anybody. I want the talk to be a positive thing.”