Sussex residents urged to ‘respect the water’ as accidental drowning deaths increase again

Residents in Sussex have been told to ‘respect the water’ as the latest statistics show that accidental drowning deaths increased again last year.

The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) also said more people died by inland water than around the coast.

There were 277 deaths in the UK from accidental drownings in 2021 across inland and coastal locations, according to the NWSF.

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The forum said this is an increase of 23 from the previous year.

The Sussex coast SUS-210709-132927001

A spokesperson from the forum said, “For 2021, the total number of deaths in water was 616, a decrease of 15 from the previous year.”

Statistics in a report from the Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the NWSF, show that inland open waters, such as rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries continue to be the leading locations for accidental drownings with 62 per cent of deaths.

The report also showed that males made up 83 per cent of the deaths.

A NWSF spokesperson added, “Forty per cent of people had no intention to enter the water, such as those walking, with causes including slips, trips and falls, being cut off by the tide or being swept in by waves.”

Dawn Whittaker. Picture from ESFRS SUS-170903-125754001

The NWSF is reminding people of life-saving advice to help residents enjoy waterways and coastlines.

The spokesperson said, “If you get into trouble in the water, float to live.

“Lean back and use your arms and legs to help you float, then get control of your breathing before calling for help or swimming to safety.

“If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112.

“If you are at the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland ask for the fire service.”

The NWSF said it is also launching its new ‘respect the water’ campaign this summer ahead of UN’s World Drowning Prevention Day on July 25.

The campaign is set to be promoted nationally to raise awareness of key safety advice and support.

Dawn Whittaker, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service CEO and NWSF chair, said “The pandemic continued to present considerable challenges at our coastal and inland waterways last year as more people had staycations.

“The ‘respect the water’ campaign is designed to help prevent further deaths and injuries in water.

“We urge the public to understand the dangers, to learn the importance of knowing how to float to live and to call 999 if others are in trouble and if there is a water-related emergency.

“We will continue to work together to reduce deaths caused by drowning and water-related injuries in the UK, and endeavour to reach our collective goal of halving accidental drownings in the UK by 2026.”