“We cannot keep you safe if you swim in open water,” warns leader of Milton Keynes Council

Scene of yesterday's drama at Blue Lagoon when a young woman was miraculously rescued from the lake.
Scene of yesterday's drama at Blue Lagoon when a young woman was miraculously rescued from the lake.

As a young woman fights for her life in hospital, the public is being warned not to put themselves at serious risk by swimming in the Blue Lagoon lake.

Milton Keynes Council is pledging to step up its open water safety patrols after two “tragic” incidents at the former quarry site in Bletchley this week.

On Friday a 61-year-old grandad, Paul Allsop, died from a suspected heart attack while a woman in her early twenties is in a very serious condition after swimming at the Blue Lagoon yesterday.

Councillor Peter Marland, leader of Milton Keynes Council, is urging people to avoid the dangers of swimming in canals, lakes, quarry pools and open water.

He said: “Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the friends and families involved in the tragic incidents over the last few days.

“These incidents highlight the dangers of entering open water and the recent episode underpins those dangers. Quarry pools are particularly dangerous places with very deep freezing water and undercurrents.

“We cannot keep you safe if you swim in open waters.

“By all means have fun by the water but it up to us to all to act responsibly both individually and when in a group so we can avoid a repeat of the tragic incidents that have happened over the past few days.”

Representatives from SaferMK , a partnership between Milton Keynes Council, Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, Thames Valley Police, NHS Milton Keynes CCG and the Thames Valley Probation Service, have been handing out leaflets warning people not to bathe in open waters.

They are advising the only safe place to bath is in supervised swimming pools and if you see someone putting themselves at risk in open water call Thames Valley Police on 101- it could save a life.

Staff working for The Parks Trust are also patrolling lakes and handing out safety advice leaflets.

Now the partnership is to add extra warning signs where necessary, and is stepping up patrols around local lakes, canals and river sites warning people about the serious risks of swimming in open waters.

Another health risk of swimming in open waters is posed by blue green algae that thrives during the summer months.

On Saturday afternoon, firefighters from Bletchley Fire Station created a water safety display and went to the Blue Lagoon to hand out leaflets warning not to bathe in open water.

But during yesterday’s drama, dozens of the leaflets were seen screwed up and discarded at the lakeside.

Watch Manager Hayley Jones said: “We were amazed by how many people were there and how many were swimming.

“There must have been about 300 people there and possibly 30 or more swimming at any time.”

Staff will continue to visit sites throughout the school summer holidays, while the warm weather continues.

In addition officers working for Milton Keynes Council are calling on all residents to heed the advice offered by the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) about the dangers of swimming in open waters.

> 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

> Don’t:

• 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:

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

2. 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

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