Taking the plunge is a ‘death risk’

Misterton Top Lock G120811-3a
Misterton Top Lock G120811-3a

THRILL seekers are risking their lives by jumping into the Chesterfield Canal at Misterton, a waterways charity has warned.

Summer revellers have been spotted leaping into Misterton Top Lock, leading to calls for people to stay safe and keep out of the water.

“In particular there have been reports of people of all ages jumping into Misterton Top Lock,” said a spokesman for the Canal & River Trust.

The charity, which is responsible for managing the nation’s waterways, said they were ‘risking death or serious injury’, and should resist the temptation to take a dip.

Waterway manager Sean McGinley said: “The Chesterfield Canal is a great place to visit on a warm summer’s day but our advice is to stay out of the water due to the hidden dangers and extreme temperature.”

“People may see it as just a bit of fun, but canals can present very serious dangers for anyone jumping in.”

“Locks are especially dangerous as they are deep, difficult to get out of and have underwater sluices and mechanisms that can present particular hazards.”

“It is far safer and much more fun to visit your local swimming pool or lido to cool off in the summer heat.”

Canals are a real haven for visitors all year round, offering something for everyone, from walkers and cyclists to boaters and anglers, families on days out and those wanting to enjoy the sun. And the stretch at Misterton is no exception.

But youngsters who flock to the beauty spot when the sun comes out are risking their safety and ruining the peaceful surroundings.

One local resident living near the canal called it ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

“Every summer we get children sunbathing and swimming down here. Sometimes they are from out of town, sometimes from the village,” she said.

“If the lock is up, they swim in it, if it’s down they jump into the lower bit. It’s terrifying, it’s at least a ten foot drop into the water.”

“Every scream we hear, we fear the worst - that someone has hit their head.”

The woman said her husband remembered two young boys being killed in a tragic accident in the lock.

“It’s only a matter of time before something happens again,” she said.

“They are unsupervised. I doubt their parents even know what they are up to.”

“We have been out and warned them of the dangers, but they don’t take any notice.”

The woman said the police were aware of the danger problem and the noise and disruption caused to residents.

“Sometimes I get home from work and wonder if I’ll be able to sit our in my garden without having to hear the screaming and the swearing,” she said.

The Canal & River Trust has told residents it will erect warning signs near the lock.

Councillor Hazel Brand, who represents the village on both the parish and district council, said she had heard about people jumping into the lock.

“There have been warnings in the newspapers about the dangers of jumping into water, but some people are not taking any notice,” she said.

“People just should not do it. It is dangerous because of the risk of shock, and doubly dangerous because you don’t know how strong the water currents are.”

Canal water is often colder than expected and can bring on cramps and drain the energy of even the strongest swimmers.

Dangers from strong currents and faster water around locks and weirs could drag swimmers into danger.

Contact with canal or river water can also bring about nasty stomach illnesses.

Statistics from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents show more than half of all drownings each year are in rivers, canals, lakes and pools. In 2009, coastal and inland waters claimed the lives of 405 people.

“Water claims the lives of more than 50 children a year in the UK. Drowning is the third most common accidental death among Britain’s under 16s, behind road accidents and house fires,” said Environment Agency waterways manager Irven Forbes.

“We have worked hard to raise awareness among young people but statistics show we still need to get the message across that the hazards are often hidden, and underestimating the dangers of water can have tragic consequences.”