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‘An accident waiting to happen’ - water safety warning after death of man in 20s

PUBLISHED: 16:51 09 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:40 10 August 2020

Emergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Emergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Ian Burt Photography

People have been urged to take care around water following the death of a man who got into difficulty at a popular beauty spot.

Emergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian BurtEmergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Families who had flocked to Bawsey Country Park to soak up summer sunshine watched on as rescue teams launched a search operation on Saturday (August 8).

It followed reports a man in his 20s had gone missing after getting into difficulty in one of the lakes at the former quarry, near King’s Lynn, widely known as Bawsey Pits.

Police confirmed later in the afternoon that the man’s body had been pulled from the water.

Emergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian BurtEmergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Superintendent Malcolm Cooke, from Norfolk Constabulary, said: “Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family at this time.

“While enquiries are continuing to establish the exact circumstances leading up to the man’s death, this is a tragic situation.

“Without wanting to prejudge what has happened here I would urge people to take the utmost care around water and to be aware of hidden dangers such as fast flowing currents, underwater obstacles and weeds.”

Emergency services, including two water rescue boats, four fire crews and a drone, had initially raced to the old sand workings at 11.30am on Saturday.

But at around 4.45pm, police confirmed the man had been found dead.

Enquiries continue into the circumstances surrounding the death and a police investigation is under way.

King's Lynn and West Norfolk councillor Colin Manning has highlighted the dangers of swimming at Bawsey Pits after the death of a man in his 20s. Picture: ArchantKing's Lynn and West Norfolk councillor Colin Manning has highlighted the dangers of swimming at Bawsey Pits after the death of a man in his 20s. Picture: Archant

As the small parish of Bawsey came to terms with the tragedy, the importance of staying safe in Norfolk and Waveney’s often-appealing bodies of water once again came to the fore.

Colin Manning, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk councillor for the area, visited the park on Sunday morning, and was shocked to see people in the water less than 24 hours after the incident.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Mr Manning. “I was horrified to see several people heading into the lakes in swimming costumes with inflatables, some with water up to their waists.

Emergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian BurtEmergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

“Fortunately there was a warden giving them advice and they listened with no trouble. Unfortunately people don’t always take kindly to being told not to do certain things.

“Bawsey is not the sea but there are currents, nevertheless, and a lot of weeds in there too. If you swim out on a hot day and get tired, you could easily get into bother.

“In fairness the owner has made it a nice place and put up signs all over the place telling people not to swim. It’s a lovely place to visit, but for goodness sake don’t go in the water.”

Emergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian BurtEmergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Fellow councillor Michael de Whalley added: “My condolences go out to the family - this is a terrible tragedy and it is absolutely heartbreaking.

“The thing with the water at Bawsey is that it is so tempting when the weather is hot, and the truth is we all know it is a place where there is an accident waiting to happen.

“But police have been working with the parish council, putting in regular patrols, and the owner is trying everything within his power to improve things, such as recently employing a warden.

King's Lynn and West Norfolk councillor Michael de Whalley has highlighted the dangers of swimming at Bawsey Pits after the death of a man in his 20s. Picture: Chris BishopKing's Lynn and West Norfolk councillor Michael de Whalley has highlighted the dangers of swimming at Bawsey Pits after the death of a man in his 20s. Picture: Chris Bishop

“In that water you will go from shallow and warm to deep and cold, and your body just cannot adapt.”

Last weekend, coastguard and lifeboat teams in Norfolk saw about 40 people rescued over the weekend. While it was quieter locally this weekend, nationally the coastguard saw it busiest day of call-outs for more than four years, responding to 340 incidents on Saturday alone.

Crews in Great Yarmouth responded to a handful of incidents, including one where there were fears a child was aboard an inflatable which was seen blowing out to sea. It was later confirmed the child was safe with their father.

Emergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian BurtEmergency services on the scene at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Audrey Smith, of Cromer RNLI, emphasised the need for people to heed safety advice.

“It is so important to take care in water, especially in this very hot weather,” she said. “People go in to cool off, but quickly you can find yourself out of your depth.

“Because the water is so cold it’s easy to cramp up, and then you panic and your body doesn’t know what to do.”


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