The UK’s drowning prevention charity, the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), has issued an urgent warning as temperatures across Britain continue to rise – along with the drowning death toll.

The charity has appealed for people to take note of simple safety messages to avoid a repeat of last summer’s tragedies when many people lost their lives cooling off in unlifeguarded open water, not suitable for swimming.

Figures show that on average each year the summer months of July and August witness the most drowning deaths with the majority of drownings being male*.

And the tragic pattern looks like it is continuing with reports of five drownings in 48 hours in the UK, another UK citizen drowning on holiday abroad last week and dramatic footage of a member of the pubic rescuing an unconscious man in the River Tyne yesterday (20 July).

Jack Pullen, 16, drowned in the River Etherow in Hyde, Manchester on Tuesday where he had been swimming with friends. On the same day a 46-year-old man drowned after jumping into the fast-flowing River Trent in Stapenhill, Staffordshire, a 21-year-old man died after getting into difficulties in Lammas Lake near Staines, and a 44-year-old man from south-west London drowned off Brighton beach.

Yesterday it was reported, the body of a 29-year-old male had been recovered from the east London dock, Shadwell Basin in Wapping.

The drownings following the inquest of a mother, Julie Dudhill, 57, who tragically drowned while swimming in the sea with her husband on holiday in Alicante, Spain on June 27.

Following the news, RLSS UK’s Deputy Director of Education and Research, Mike Dunn said: “I urge people to listen to our safety advice and never swim in non-lifeguarded areas unsuitable for swimming.

“It may seem an inviting way to cool off – but there are deadly dangers such as extremely cold temperatures, unpredictable currents, uneven depths and unknown debris or object people can get injured on or caught in.

“We want people to enjoy the water and make the most of the weather, but safely, whether at home here in the UK or on holiday abroad. Please stay safe and don’t let yourself or a loved one become a tragic statistic this summer.”

The last few years have seen a tragic amount of preventable deaths as people flocked to open water sites not suitable for swimming. These sites included rivers, quarries, lakes and reservoirs.

Mike added: “Being aware of the basic principles of open water safety, combined with knowledge and understanding of the hazards, can increase enjoyment and significantly reduce the number deaths each year.

“Any drowning is a tragedy but the number of people who lose their lives each summer is not only extremely sad but extremely worrying.”

Figures show the age group with the highest number of fatalities (27) in 2014 were men aged between 20 and 24. Meanwhile, 0 to 19-year-olds accounted for 11 per cent of deaths (38), of which more than half were teenagers aged 15 to 19 (21).

Fiona Gosling lost her son Cameron one year ago. He drowned in the River Weir when out with friends and was just 14-years-old. She is now working with RLSS UK as an ambassador to raise awareness.

She said: “Cameron was the laughter in the house and was the life and soul of any room he was in.

“It’s not about teaching your kids to swim. Cameron could swim. It’s about teaching them the dangers in and around open water, the cold shock and the dangers underneath. We cannot keep losing people every year like this, please listen to the safety messages and make sure your kids know the dangers.”

Follow the below advice and take note of the dangers to avoid becoming one of the statistics –


  • Swim at unsupervised (un-lifeguarded sites) including lakes, quarries reservoirs and rivers
  • Jump into the water until you have acclimatised to the water temperature
  • Jump into the water from heights or ‘tombstone’
  • Swim into deep water which will be colder


  • Swim at supervised (lifeguarded) sites
  • Swim parallel with the shore, where you can quickly get to safety
  • Swim with friends or family, so that you can help each other if you need to
  • Look for signs and advice about the specific dangers at the place where you are swimming
  • Think about what you will do if something goes wrong
  • Contact a reputable outdoor pursuits or coasteering centre if you want to take part in more extreme activities

Dangers of open water include:

  • The height of the fall or jump if tombstoning
  • The depth of the water – this changes and is unpredictable
  • 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
  • Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away
  • Uneven banks and river beds
  • Water quality eg toxic algal blooms and industrial/agricultural pollution

All of these hazards can be controlled through proper organisation and planning.

If someone is in difficulty in the water –

  • Shout reassurance to them and shout for help and ensure the emergency services are on their way (call 999 or 112)
  • 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
  • Keep your eye on them all the time and shout reassurance urging them to propel themselves to safety


For more information on RLSS UK, water safety or details on lifesaving courses suitable for children and adults- 

Visit our website at

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Call – 0300 3230 096