A WARNING has gone out to youngsters around the county about the dangers of open water after a number of fatalities last summer.

With summer holidays now underway and warm summer weather arriving, West Mercia Police is urging people to be careful when swimming, walking or running near to rivers or water courses.

The warning comes after a string of tragedies last summer which saw 17-year-old Russell O'Neill, and 22-year-old Justas Juzenas killed while swimming in Gullet Quarry, near Malvern.

Superintendent Mark Travis said: “It might be very inviting in warm weather but swimming in unauthorised and unsupervised stretches of river or other open water is fraught with danger. The deaths we have experienced locally over the past year are a stark illustration of just how hazardous it can be.

“While those dangers are ever-present we are keen to highlight it now that the schools are breaking up for summer and children will have more time on their hands. A hot spell usually results in some youngsters making a beeline for stretches of open water and they need to be aware of the risks.

“It is often impossible to gauge the depths of these waters and the strength of currents. Where water levels are unknown, jumping or diving in can cause serious injury or drowning, especially if there are submerged rocks, weeds or other debris."

He added that the shock of cold water immersion or inhalation can cause instant death as well as a sudden cramp due to the cold.

Every summer, police receive calls about people jumping off bridges into rivers to cool off and getting into difficulty while swimming in reservoirs, pools, lakes, quarries and canals.

The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) said that 85 per cent of accidental drownings here happen in open water, often due to a lack of understanding or awareness of the dangers at such locations.

Supt Travis appealed for parents to ensure their children were educated about the dangers and to be aware of where their youngsters were playing when out of sight.

He added: “We don’t want to appear to be killjoys but people need to be encouraged to stay safe – we really don’t want any more fatalities.

“Unless there is adequate supervision and rescue cover our advice would be not to get into open water in the first place and if you need to cool off head for a public swimming pool instead.”