Warning issued after man tragically dies swimming in Milton Keynes river during heatwave

The river was recommended in national reports of best 'wild swimming spots'

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 1:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 1:12 pm

A town has issued a warning after a man lost his life swimming in its river on Bank Holiday Monday.

Police and emergency services were called to the River Great Ouse at Olney shortly after 5.15pm after reports that a swimmer had gone missing.

A man was rescued from the water and taken to hospital, where sadly he died a short time later.

There is a clear warning sign at the spot

Olney town mayor Philip Geach said: "Please, please, if you are swimming in the river here, or indeed any open water do take extra care. There are hidden dangers for even experienced swimmers."

The stretch of river by Olney recreation ground is a popular haunt for bathers, despite a sign urging people not to swim there.

It was even recommended by The Times newspaper last year as one of the '20 best places for wild swimming in the UK'.

The writers described the 'wonderful swimming area with steps behind the rec as a great place to visit for wild swimming and praised the 'many shingle beaches' which have formed behind the church.

The River Great Ouse at Olney

The report angered many townspeople at the time, who said it was irresponsible to encourage people to swim when there could be hidden currents and other perils.

Mayor Geach said he and fellow town councillors had visited the site yesterday and spoke about river safety to the families and young people who were there. A PCSO was also on hand to offer advice.

He said: ""Our thoughts go out to all involved in Monday's incident."

Police are now preparing a file to be handed to the coroner to determine the cause of death, which is not being treated as suspicious.

Meanwhile the Parks Trust warns people every summer has not to swim in Milton Keynes’ rivers and lakes, which have sadly claimed several lives over the years.

In a statement released via the SaferMK group, the Parks Trust has said, “Some of the waters in Milton Keynes have historically been used for swimming and bathing. Dangers are greater than in the past. The water may be polluted and there are hidden hazards. Each year there are multiple drowning deaths in UK inland waters.

“The only safe place to swim is in a swimming pool. The water is clean, clear and warm. There are life guards on hand if something goes wrong. Do not risk swimming in local lakes or rivers. If you see a swimmer is in difficulty or there is a risk of drowning call 999.”

Police have also previously provided advice concerning the hazards associated with swimming in open water.

“We would urge people to be aware of the hazards of getting into open water such as lakes, reservoirs and rivers, no matter how tempting it must be in the hot weather. Open water can contain hazards and unexpectedly cold water can catch bathers off guard," said a spokesman,

“Inland waters can be very cold no matter how warm the weather is which can lead to cramp and breathing difficulties so we would urge people to take great care and be aware of the dangers before going in.”