Warnings over dangers of swimming in quarries and open water after deaths

A warning sign on the bank of Bewl reservoir, Kent. Credit: Cathal McNaughton/PA

In the wake of several deaths as people try and escape the heat in the water, emergency services have reiterated warnings over the dangers of swimming in open water and quarries.

On Friday Justas Juzenas, 22, drowned at Gullet Quarry, a stretch of water near Malvern, Worcestershire, where 17-year-old Russell O'Neill died in a separate incident on Saturday 6th July.

Last Wednesday the body of 14-year-old Hollie McClymont was recovered from the sea near Barry Island in Wales.

24-year-old Daniel Clemo died after swimming in the remote Cantref Reservoir near the Brecon Beacons on Sunday.

The bodies of two men, who have not been named, were recovered from water at Bawsey Pits, a disused quarry in west Norfolk and a popular beauty spot yesterday.

Dangers of open water include:

  • The depth of the water - this changes and is unpredictable

  • Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away

  • Water quality such as toxic algal blooms and industrial/agricultural pollution

  • Submerged objects may not be visible

  • Obstacles or other people in the water

  • Lack of safety equipment and increased difficulty for rescue

  • The shock of cold water can make swimming difficult and increase the difficulty in getting out of the water

  • The height of the fall or jump if tombstoning

  • Uneven banks and river beds

The Royal Live Saving Society (RLSS) have urged swimmers to look out for signs and advice about the specific dangers at the place where you intend to swim and has issued the following guidelines for safe swimming.


  • Swim at unsupervised (lifeguarded sites)

  • Jump into the water until you have acclimatised to the water temperature

  • Jump into the water from extreme heights

  • Swim into deep water which will be colder

If someone is in difficulty in the water:

  • Shout reassurance to them and shout for help and ensure the emergency services are on their way (call 999 or 112)

  • Without endangering yourself, see if you can reach out to them, extend your reach with a stick, pole, item of clothing, lie down or stay secure. Alternatively throw something buoyant to them such as a ring buoy, part filled plastic container, ball or anything that will float

  • Keep your eye on them all the time and shout reassurance urging them to propel themselves to safety

Any drowning is a tragedy but the number of people who have lost their live this month is not only extremely sad but extremely worrying. We want people to listen to our high alert and take on board the safety messages we are issuing – advice that could mean the difference between life and death. Do not be tempted to cool off in open water, unless it is a supervised area intended for swimming, or an organised event. We want people to enjoy water, but safely and sensibly – using their common sense and listening to advice. We sincerely hope that this is the last drowning tragedy to take place this summer. Please don’t become a statistic.