'Oh no, not another one' - lake drowning triggers soul-searching over safety
- Credit: Denise Bradley
A country park where a 20-year-old man drowned is pledging to do more to drive home the message it is dangerous to swim.
Emergency services were called at around 4pm to reports a man was in difficulties in the water in the smaller of two lakes on the site. Mr Gina was pronounced dead at the scene.
Signs around the flooded former quarry workings near King's Lynn warn visitors not to enter the water. But many ignore them during hot weather, despite the dangers.
An inquest into the death of Kristers Bednarskis, who died at the park last August, heard owner Stephen Bacon was doing "all he reasonably can", while a council safety officer said: "The only way to prevent another drowning at Bawsey Country Park is for the public to follow the rules.
Senior coroner Jacqueline Lake, who recorded a verdict of misadventure, said: "People do have to take responsibility for their own safety. If there are warning signs they are there for a reason and should not be flouted by the public."
Richard Wilkins, business development manager at the park, said: "We are continually looking at ways to improve the park, enhance the visitor experience and keep our visitors safe, and regularly consult with the emergency services to seek guidance on how to achieve this.
"We have already increased the number of signs around the park, installed life-saving equipment, and posted many water safety messages via our Facebook page and website. However, it is fair to say that not all our visitors will have visited our website or Facebook page.
"So, to increase the audience for this information, we are looking at ways to reach out via local media, schools, and other organisations and the message we want to get across is very simple - stay safe, stay out of the water.
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"I hope that our visitors realise that our intention is not to spoil their enjoyment of the park, we simply want them to stay safe."
Colin Manning, a borough councillor whose ward includes Bawsey, said:"When I heard, I thought: 'Oh no, not another one.
"He was 20 years old, he had his whole life ahead of him. They all think it won't happen to them.
"People go paddling in the water, they don't realise a few feet from the edge there's a great big drop and it's so cold."
Mr Manning said he thought Mr Bacon had done all he could to keep visitors safe.
"He's put up loads of signs, he's got rangers going round telling people to get out of the water," he said.
"People on social media are saying why can't you put a fence up, but if you put a 10ft fence up people would just see it as a challenge.
"The signs aren't there to stop your fun, they're there to save your life. It isn't suitable for swimming."
Depths plunge to more than 20ft close to the shore, while the water is cold even on the hottest of days. Swimmers are at risk of cold water shock, which the RNLI warns can be "the precursor to drowning".
Carlene McAvoy, leisure safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: “Whilst international travel restrictions are still place we are expecting the number visits to the UK’s coastal and inland water sites to soar.
"With this in mind, we are asking the public to respect the water and follow the local safety guidance or the instructions of lifeguards."
A friend paying tribute to Mr Gina on social media said: "Such a great lad. So young. So heartbreaking. I urge everyone do not swim at Bawsey Pits, it's so dangerous."