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Heatwave danger alert: Young people urged not to jump in water-filled quarries, waterfalls and “tombstoning” at the coast

Last modified: 25 June 2020 at 05:37pm

With hot, sunny weather taking hold, there may be a temptation for young people to jump from a great height into water-filled quarries, waterfalls and the sea to cool down.

But the risks of serious injury, illness and even death are very real – not least when this activity is mixed with drinking alcohol.

On Wednesday afternoon (24 June 2020), police were called to a quarry near Great Heck in the Selby District to disperse a gathering of up to 40 young people.

Not only had a large number of them entering the very deep and cold water while under the influence of alcohol, they had also been exposed to pollution.

This activity has occurred at this and other such locations around the county.

PC Dave White, of the Safer Selby Hub, said: “While this may seem like good fun, the young people involved are placing themselves in serious danger by entering the water-filled quarries in the Selby District and elsewhere.

“Should someone be injured when jumping in or getting into grave difficulties while swimming, the lives of the emergency service teams are also put at risk from this foolish behaviour.

“We urge young people to be sensible and avoid these areas completely.

“We also ask parents and carers to raise this issue and warn young people about the dangers involved.”

Thomason Foss, Beckhole, Goathland

At around 3pm on Thursday (25 June), emergency services were alerted to Thomason Foss near Goathland after a 22-year-old man from Yarm suffered serious injuries when he jumped into the water. He has been taken to hospital by air ambulance.

North Yorkshire Police is working with the North York Moors National Park Authority to warn against the dangers at this location following recent incidents.

Tombstoning at the coast

Over in the Scarborough, Filey and Whitby areas, there is an emerging issue of young people jumping into the sea from harbour walls and piers – often referred to as “tombstoning”.

A multi-agency approach to tackle this problem has been established, with Scarborough Borough Council’s Beach Superintendents tasked with monitoring and engaging with those who appear to be taking part in this highly dangerous activity.

Police officers and Coastguards will be on hand to intervene and take action if required.

Chief Inspector Rachel Wood, Operations Commander for Scarborough and Ryedale, said: “Tombstoning is an extremely dangerous thing to do and has cost people their lives in the past.

“Sadly, such tragedies will happen again in the future if people – often having been drinking alcohol – continue to take such unnecessary risks at our coastal and countryside areas.

“Our partnership approach to this issue is designed to keep people safe from harm and to do everything we can to prevent serious and even fatal incidents occurring.

“For this to be successful we need the co-operation of the public to be sensible in the first place, and for people to report any concerning behaviour to the police as soon as possible.”

Concerned residents or businesses should report incidents to North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 1, and speak to the Force Control Room.

Water safety advice

Our colleagues at North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service lead on water safety.

They provide the following advice about the dangers …

Alcohol and bathing

Alcohol causes loss of coordination and slows reaction times, as well as reducing the body’s core temperature and increasing the susceptibility to cold.

Temperature shock

Even during warm weather, temperatures in open waters are dangerously low. This can affect even strong swimmers, causing loss of strength and muscle coordination. Prolonged exposure to cold can cause hypothermia, inducing mental confusion and irrational behaviour.

Waterborne diseases

Open water used by animals can carry diseases such as Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease), which has flu-like symptoms and can be fatal.

Submerged dangers

Murky or fast-flowing water can conceal hazards such as rocks or discarded rubbish. Jumping in can be deadly.


Underwater plants can wrap around bathers, leading to breathing difficulties and panic.

Water currents

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

Just 15cm of fast flowing water can knock an adult off their feet. Deeper water with fast currents is extremely hazardous.

Bathers are advised to:

  • Only use venues designed for open-air bathing
  • Pay attention to all warning signs
  • Never let older children swim in unsupervised areas like quarries, canals or ponds
  • Never interfere with lifesaving equipment – you might need it yourself

 If you see someone in difficulty:

  • Shout for help and dial 999 and ask for the Fire Service at inland water sites or the Coast Guard if you’re at the beach
  • Reach with a long stick, a scarf, clothes or anything else. Crouch or lie down to avoid being pulled in
  • Throw, a rope is best – you can then pull in the person. Otherwise throw something that will float – a ball, a plastic bottle or a lifebuoy
  • Do not jump in to try to save them

More information, including water safety videos, are available from the North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service webs page https://www.northyorksfire.gov.uk/communitysafety/outdoors/water-safety?fbclid=IwAR2DN8KX7fpyGi_Xl4RpiUZE_y2f-r3oq6v8eXYU8znnDBmgg4GAxVfNWv4

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