Published on 18.07.2022

Water safety reminder follows tragic river death

The region’s emergency services are reminding people of the very real dangers of swimming in open water following the tragic death of a teenager in the River Tyne near Ovingham.

Teams from Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS), along with colleagues from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), Northumbria Police, HM Coastguard and Mountain Rescue had been searching the area since Sunday afternoon after a report of concern for the welfare of a boy who had got into difficulties in the river.

Today the boy who died was named as Robert Hattersley, 13, of Crawcrook.

NFRS Chief Fire Officer Paul Hedley said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Robert at this time.

“A visit to the river has ended in absolute tragedy and we will be working with our colleagues at Northumbria Police to fully understand the circumstances of what happened.

“Unfortunately this incident underlines the very real dangers presented by rivers and the sea.

“The water may look calm on the surface, but there can be strong undercurrents that could pull even a strong swimmer under the water.

“And even when the weather feels very hot, the water may feel warm on the surface, but just a few feet below the surface it can be icy cold – affecting the stamina and strength of even strong swimmers.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther, of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Everyone at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service wants to offer their condolences to the family of Robert  who tragically lost his life in Ovingham after getting into difficulty in the water on Sunday.

“Our crews did attend the area on Sunday to support Northumbria Police and Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service with their operation. Together we carried out extensive searches of the water in a bid to locate the victim.

“It is difficult in these circumstances to find the right way to offer water safety advice, particularly when enquiries into what has happened are still ongoing, but doing so could prevent another tragedy from taking place.

“Even in the hot weather, cold water shock is a real risk. If you find yourself in trouble then the advice is to try and lean back and float. Use your arms and legs to help you get into this position, and try and stay calm.

“If you are with someone who gets into difficulty in the water then give them this advice and call emergency services for help. If you can, use an object to try and reach for them but don’t put yourself in danger by entering the water.”

Sergeant Simon Falconer, of Northumbria Police’s Marine Unit, said: “Robert’s death was an absolutely tragic incident and our thoughts remain with his family. We’ll continue to offer them any support they need.

“While we would urge everyone to avoid any speculation as to the circumstances surrounding this particular incident, it does act as a poignant and timely reminder as to the potential dangers presented by water.

“We would echo the advice given by our colleagues at Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service and Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service and ask anybody who sees anybody in difficulty to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard, rather than enter the water themselves.

“If you see someone in danger, act fast, keep your eyes on the person and wait for emergency services to arrive. That will allow the Coastguard, our officers and colleagues at the fire service to get to a casualty as quickly as possible.”

More information on water safety is available at https://www.northumberlandfireandrescue.gov.uk/outdoor-safety