Women whose sons died in Bristol Harbour fight against campaign to allow swimming

  • Watch Caron Bell's report

Two mothers whose sons drowned in Bristol Harbour are fighting against a campaign to allow swimming there. 

Over recent weeks wild swimmers have staged protest swims in the city's harbour, arguing it should be allowed.

Bristol City Council says it is considering permitting limited harbour swimming but warns it is currently "dangerous and prohibited".

Tracy Edgell's 17-year-old son Brooklyn drowned in the harbour two years ago while under the influence of alcohol.

Brooklyn died after jumping into the water in August 2019.

"It's coming up two years and it's been the worst two years of my life. It's been horrendous. I just want to see him and I can't. And I don't want any other parent to go through what I'm going through."

While speaking to ITV News West Country on a sunny evening, she said: "There are so many people down here this evening. People sat with their legs over the wall, thinking 'Shall I jump in? Shall I not jump in?' They're all drinking."

Swimming in Bristol Harbour is banned, but a growing group of wild swimmers want the rules to change.

They say Bristol Harbour is big enough and clean enough to have a protected swimming area and have been staging illegal protest swims.

They weren't in the water long before the Harbour Master told them to leave. Credit: Johnny Palmer

Founder of Swim Bristol Harbour Johnny Palmer said: "We want to be able to swim in the harbour because we think it can be an amazing amenity for the people of Bristol, and it increases the accessibility of wild swimming spots for the people of our city."

But Alinka Gurgul is not convinced. Her son Jason drowned in the harbour after a night out and she believes allowing swimming anywhere would encourage swimming everywhere.

"The harbour for one is a working harbour. It is dangerous under the water with the current and the shock of the cold. It's not a place to swim and in my opinion it gives scope for people to think 'Ok, they're swimming in it. Well I think I'll go and have a dip."

In two years Avon Fire and Rescue have dealt with more than 70 water-related incidents in Bristol, 26 of them resulting in serious injury or death. But the wild swimmers insist they are in a different category.

Mr Palmer said: "There are people who have jumped in the harbour and died. The people who that happens to, it's often late at night, it often involves alcohol, and most people that drown never intended to get in the water. That is a different group of people from the ones that go swimming for a recreational purpose."

In a statement, Bristol City Council told ITV News West Country: "We are looking into how we could potentially introduce safe and managed swimming in the harbour and are making contact with organisations across the UK to understand what is possible.

"It's important to stress however that these discussions are ongoing and swimming in the harbour remains dangerous and prohibited."