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Bereaved families back new drowning prevention strategy for Wales

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WELSH families who have lost loved ones to drowning have united to launch the first Welsh Drowning Prevention Strategy.

The strategy launched today by Lesley Griffiths MS, Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, has been drawn up by Water Safety Wales, a collaboration of individuals, communities, charities and public and private sector organisations with an interest in water safety and drowning prevention. It aims to reduce water related deaths and incidents in Wales by promoting the importance of a consistent and effective approach to water safety.

Lesley Griffiths said:‘Our coastal and inland waters are a jewel in the Welsh crown enjoyed by millions of people each year. But sadly too many people are losing their lives to water-related fatalities. We support Water Safety Wales’ belief that these deaths are preventable.

‘The impact of losing someone to a death in the water cannot be underestimated and I commend the people who have been brave enough to share their stories in support of Wales’ Drowning Prevention Strategy. I also commend the work they and others are already doing to prevent drowning in Wales.

‘The launch of this strategy is an opportunity for us all in Wales to acknowledge the problem of drowning to do what we can to prevent it in the future.’

There are around 600 water related fatalities in the UK every year and in Wales there are an average of 45 at coastal and inland waters. Almost six in 10 (58%) of people who died as a result of an accident in the water did not intend to enter the water at all, while 89% of water related fatalities are men.

Families across Wales backing the strategy include Debbie Turnbull, from Holywell, Flintshire, who tragically lost her 15-year-old son Chris after he drowned in a river at Capel Curig in 2006. Since then Debbie has educated hundreds of thousands of young people through her River and Sea Sense charity.

Debbie says:‘My work in water safety keeps my son’s memory alive. In 2021, Chris will have been gone for 15 years – as long as his lifetime.

‘Water related deaths are preventable. The more people who are educated about water safety, the more safety equipment we have in the right places and the more people we have who can pass on water safety messages in the right way, the more lives we will save.

Also supporting the strategy launch is Danni Harding, from Cardiff, whose suffered life changing injuries when she hit rocks jumping from a waterfall in 2018. Danni, 29, who ran a successful security firm prior to her accident, broke her back and now lives with a series of debilitating health problems.

She says: ‘I didn’t realise that the hot weather had made the water level lower than normal. I was having the greatest time – I’d jumped nine times, until I made that one wrong move and now I have to live with the fact that I have fits, I have a stammer, I have endless hospital appointments – now I have to live with that.

‘I went from being a 24/7 business owner and mother to being stuck in my bedroom, unable to move. It felt my life was just taken away and it was down to one mistake, one wrong move.

‘I’m lucky – I’m still here and I have my life. My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one to drowning. But If I’d have been better educated about the risks, I might have made a better choice about jumping that last time in the way I did.’

Reuben Morgan, 15, died whilst swimming at Pontsticill Reservior near Merthyr Tydfil in 2006. His mother Maxine Johnson is heartened to see organisations coming together to help prevent drowning in Wales. Also supporting the strategy are the family of Stephen Amery from Carmarthen, who died from suicide by drowning; Catherine Collins Coleman, sister of Benny Collins who sadly drowned at Three Cliffs Bay, Gower, in 2015; and Leeanne Bartley, from Ruthin, whose son Mark Allen, drowned in Gorton Reservoir, Manchester, in 2018, aged 18.

The families have all produced a small video clip outlining their thoughts on the launch of the new strategy in helping to prevent further deaths.

Statistics from the Water Incident Database (WAID) show the rate of accidental drowning in Wales is almost double that of the UK as a whole, while figures from Welsh blue light and search and rescue services show that on average there are 1755 water incidents per year that require emergency response – approximately five every day.

Dave Ansell, Chair of Water Safety Wales says: ‘Water Safety Wales believes one death is too many, we will reduce drowning if everyone plays their part. We have an aspiration of zero water related deaths in Wales and this strategy aims to enable people living and visiting Wales to be safer in, on and around water by reducing water related deaths and incidents.

‘We are so very grateful to have the support of families who have experienced their own personal tragedies and are sharing those experiences to ensure others don’t to have endure the heartache they have suffered.

This strategy recognises the wide range of fantastic water safety and drowning prevention work already making a real difference in Wales. This strategy hopes to build on that existing work and also act as a call to arms to all of us to do all we can to prevent the tragedy of drowning.’

The key aims of the strategy, which runs from 2020-2026, are to improve water incident data and intelligence in Wales and promote and develop learning to swim and water safety education. Support will also be offered to communities to develop water safety plans to understanding and mitigate any risks. The strategy aims to promote public awareness of water related risks and ensure consistent safety messages reach the right people at the right time, by promoting the promote the safe participation in water activities across Wales.

It also aims to contribute to the reduction of water-related suicide and work with families affected by water related incidents.

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Stand up for slowing down speed campaign launched

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INAPPROPRIATE speed contributes to around 11% of all injury collisions reported to the police, with 15% of collisions resulting in a serious injury and 24% of collisions resulting in fatalities.

Starting on the 26th July, the National Police Chief Council (NPCC) Speed Campaign will kick off across the UK, with GoSafe and the four Welsh Police Forces participating in both engaging with the public about the risks of speeding and enforcing the speed limits on the roads of Wales.

In 2019, 60,073 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were issued in Wales to drivers/riders for speeding.

Speeding is a major contributing factor to collisions on the roads of Wales. This includes both ‘excessive speed’, where the speed limit is exceeded, as well as driving or riding within the speed limit when this is too fast for the conditions at the time; for example, in poor weather, poor visibility or high pedestrian activity.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, we saw less traffic but higher speeds.  Now our restrictions are lifting, traffic volumes are up and as we are holidaying in the UK more, we are seeing more people speeding on the roads in Wales.  We want to change this, but can only do that with your help.

 Over the next few weeks you will see an increased presence on the road network of Wales as we aim to keep all road users safe and reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.

 We know that the majority of road users comply with the speed limit; but the minority of those who do not increases the risk to the safety of all road users and need to be educated on the risks to their own safety as well as to the safety of those around them. Throughout this campaign, GoSafe and our partners in the Police and Local Authorities will encourage and educate more people to reduce their speed to save lives.

Teresa Ciano, GoSafe Partnership Manager said: “GoSafe enforce at sites across Wales in order to encourage motorists to comply with the speed limits and in turn make our roads and communities safer for everyone. If we all play our part and stand up for slowing down we can make a difference, and we can save lives on the roads of Wales.”

Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change said: “I am very pleased to support this campaign. Driving at high speeds costs lives and a greater police presence on our roads will mean motorists will be more likely to drive within the speed limits, protecting lives and avoiding a speeding fine.”

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Cardigan man accused of murder in court

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John Williams Bell was found murdered in Cardigan

A CARDIGAN man who is accused of stabbing a man to death has appeared in court today (Jul 28).

Ashley Keegan, 22, of Golwyg y Castell, Cardigan, appeared before court via video link where he spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth.

Swansea crown court heard how Keegan is accused of stabbing 37-year-old John Williams Bell seven times in the back.

Mr Bell’s body was discovered in the early hours of Wednesday Morning, July 21, on the road to Cardigan Bridge.

The court set a provisional trial date for January 3, 2022.

Keegan will remain remanded into custody until the trial.

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Suspected drink driver tracked for two miles by police dog

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A SUSPECTED drink driver was arrested after a police dog tracked him for two miles along a cycle path.

Dyfed-Powys Police dog Storm and his handler PC Mike Barnsley located the driver following a collision between Bont and Tregaron on Sunday, July 25.

Officers had attended the scene of the collision, discovering that a car had hit a tree and overturned – however, the driver was not present.

PC Barnsley said: “There were concerns that the driver could have been injured due to the significant damage to the car, so a search was immediately launched to find them.

“With PD Storm, I focussed on the cycle path running alongside the road, where Storm picked up a track and followed it for around two miles.

“Local response units accessed the cycle path ahead of us, while another unit searched from the main road along an unclassified road in the same direction.”

PC Barnsley and Storm reported a sighting of a man on the cycle path, and he was stopped and arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

Sergeant David Hawksworth said: “This was an excellent demonstration of teamwork and coordination by officers, whose good local knowledge resulted in the suspect being swiftly found and arrested.”

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