Sunderland’s emergency services have issued a plea to the public not to mess with the city’s lifebelts.
The emergency services, the Port of Sunderland and Sunderland City Council have become concerned after a number of incidents in which lifebelts have been unnecessarily hurled into the Wear, making them unavailable for rescue attempts.
Such vandalism puts lives at risk. This is especially the case in the Festive Season, a time during which people sometimes fall or venture into water after one too many drinks.
Though the council, the Port of Sunderland and the emergency services are urging all residents not to tamper with lifebelts, they are particularly aiming the message at young people.
Checks of Sunderland’s riverside and coastal lifebelts are conducted weekly. Since Easter, Port of Sunderland authorities have dealt with 40 incidents in which lifebelts were either found to be missing or spotted floating in the river.
Replacing lifesaving equipment can cost up to £55 a time.
A youth recently caught interfering with lifebelts was referred to the Youth Offending Service Restorative Justice Scheme. The youth was sentenced to community service, for which he had to spend a week picking up litter along the Wear.
In April 2019, a lifebelt was used in the rescue of a man from the river at Panns Bank. Northumbria Police and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service have also used lifebelts during rescue operations.
The Port of Sunderland’s marine services manager, Neil Mearns, said, “Lifebelts and lines are provided along the riverside and coast to save lives should someone fall in the water or get into difficulties.”
“If they are not in place, lives can easily be lost. I would urge young people and their parents or guardians to make sure this message is clearly understood so that we can see this misuse, interference and vandalism stopped.”
“If a lifebelt has been tampered with or is missing, it could cost a life.”
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s head of prevention and education, Ian Warne, said, “Lifebelts and lines are essential in helping to rescue people from the water. These life-saving devices can be used by anyone passing by to help people in difficulties.”
“By removing or damaging them, you are directly placing lives at risk. We’d urge all parents to talk to their children about the importance of lifebelts and why it could be a life or death matter if they are not available when needed.”
(The featured image shows, foreground, Neil Mearns of the Port of Sunderland with, from left to right, James Jamison, lifeboat operations manager, Sunderland; Ian Warne, head of prevention & education, Tyne & Wear Fire Service; Rob Irving, coastguard rescue officer; Tony Bennett, Northumbria Police Marine Unit; and Jonathan Emme, coastguard rescue officer.)