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Local rescue team says it has 'genuine concerns' over safety of New Year's Day dip

Members of the public braving the cold water at Whitley Bay on New Year's day 2018 Credit: PA

For many people in the North East, taking a dip in the sea has become something of a tradition on Boxing Day and New Year's day, but a local rescue team is suggesting people who plan to take part in Whitley Bay, give this year a miss.

Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade is advising that people don't take the plunge this year, saying that safety precautions that have been put in place for previous events, are not organised for the New year's day dip taking place tomorrow.

On their website the brigade said:

In the past the dips have had official organisers, responsible for ensuring suitable safety cover is in place for such a large-scale public event.

Whereas the Boxing Day dip at Tynemouth Longsands, organised by our friends at North Sea Volunteer Lifeguards, had all of the appropriate measures in place, there are no known safety precautions taken at Whitley Bay for the New Year’s Day event.

A few years ago, the event was organised by a local swimming club. However, their participation has now ended and we are concerned that most people taking part will be unaware of this change.

– TVLB
People taking part in the Christmas day dip 2019 Credit: PA

The volunteer rescue team were keen to make clear that in offering their advice, they are not saying that going into the sea is a dangerous act.

They added that their rescue crews actively encourage people to explore and enjoy the North East coastline – but in a safe and responsible manner.

With the prospect of hundreds of people entering the water in one go, we are concerned that participants may go further into the sea than they would normally, and will also be at risk of cold water shock given the time of year and cold sea conditions.

Attempts have been made by North Tyneside Council to identify an organiser of the dip – but it appears that there is not one and it takes place based on word of mouth and local traditions. Local media have also been asked not to publicise the event as it is not officially organised – but dates and times of the dip have still been included on various sites."

– TVLB

The brigade will have a safety patrol in the area at the time when the dip traditionally takes place, however crews will not be on the beach, meaning they are not able to provide safety cover in the form of lifeguards and safety boats.

They say that is due to a shortage of people.

Our role and aim are to provide a coastal search and rescue team in the North Tyneside area – our volunteers are on call 24/7 to respond to whatever emergencies and incidents take place.

We are releasing this message because we have genuine concerns that a serious incident could take place and that those involved may be expecting a level of organisation and safety cover that will not be present."

– TVLB