Thames Tragedy


It’s sad news I’m bringing you today.
A 15 year old boy drowned after he jumped into the River Thames to cool down in the heat. Hussain Mohammed apparently jumped off Donnington Bridge in Oxford into the Thames. It was a hot day and who could blame him, I know loads of people who jump into rivers all the time, I’ve even been known to do it myself. Admittedly I know people who do it when there’s snow on the ground, but that’s another story. 

I’m not a strong swimmer, so when I jumped into the water there was a group of people around to advise me. The plan was to swim behind Justin Miles as he paddled through Reading, raising awareness for The Children’sTrust. (He had already paddled from the other side of Bristol over the past few days). A very VERY strong swimmer, Dan ‘the fish’ Martin, gave me some words of wisdom, Justin was nearby in a kayak, and there was a group of people watching from the bank. We even had permission from the Local Authorities and The Environment Agency. What could possibly go wrong? Well, apart from me jumping into the water onto an old shopping trolley and cutting my leg open, nothing. I was almost out of the game before it had started, but as I headed for the bank, I looked at my leg, it was still attached and I thought, if that’s the worst that could happen, I may as well carry on. (As I was in an Urban Canal, I should have got out and cleaned the wound, covered it with a sterile dressing and started antibiotics, (see Leptospirosis below), but I did this later). Yep, even with training, support and safety all taken care for, accidents do happen. I guess it goes with the territory when you spend most of your time doing crazy things.
So kids, and adults, don’t go jumping into rivers willy-nilly, get advice, join a club, find some friends who know what they’re doing, most important of all, learn to swim.  
The following is a must read and has been taken from the Wild Swimming website.
Stay Safe.

Non-swimmers - Shallow water can deepen suddenly. If you, your children or your friends cannot swim make sure you scout out the extent of the shallows, set clear boundaries and keep constant supervision. Remember that even shallow sections of fast-flowing water can knock you off your feet. Be careful with inflatables, which can create a false sense of security and float off into deep sections or burst. Buy a good quality buoyancy aid for non-swimmers (about £40) and, best of all, learn to swim.  

Slipping on rocks - One of the most common dangers in outdoor swimming. Rocks are very slippery when wet and you don’t want to hit your head. Never run. Go barefoot to get a better grip or wear plimsolls with a rubber sole. 

Hypothermia and cold-shock - Outdoor swimming in cold water saps body heat. Shivering and teeth-chattering are the first stages of mild hypothermia, so get out of the water and warm up with a combination of warm, dry clothes and activity. Wear a wetsuit if you want to stay in for more than a quick dip. ‘Cold-shock’ is the involuntary gasp and rise in heart rate that occurs as the body enters very cold water. Test the temperature and wade in slowly unless you are already acclimatised to outdoor swimming. 

Jumping and diving - Always check the depth of the water, even if you visit the same spot regularly. Depths can vary and new underwater obstructions (sand, rocks, branches, rubbish, TV's See Below) may have been brought downstream or tipped in. A broken neck from a diving accident could paralyse you for life. 
Dan Martin watch TV in Reading
Cramps and solo-swimming - Swimming cramp can occur in the calf or foot and tends to be caused by overexertion, over-stretching and tiredness. Cramp is not more likely after eating but dehydration, or a poor diet in general, can make you especially prone. If you get a leg cramp, shout for help, lie on your back and paddle back to shore with your arms. Swimming alone in deep water is foolish but, if you must, wear a life jacket or trail a float behind you on a cord. 

Weeds - Most common in slow, warm lowland river swimming and lake swimming, weeds are quite easy to see and, while one or two aren’t such a problem, a spaghetti-like forest can entangle a swimmer’s legs. Try to avoid them. If you do encounter some, slow your swim speed right down, don’t kick or thrash, and either float on through using your arms to paddle, or turn around slowly. 

Blue–green algae - In lowland lake swimming, after warm, wet weather, usually in late summer, algae can multiply and a powdery, green scum (the blooms) can collect on the downwind side of a lake. It’s obvious and unpleasant and can give you a skin rash or irritate your eyes if you bathe in it, and make you sick if you swallow it. Find a part of the lake without blooms or go somewhere else. 

‘Swimmer’s itch’ (cercarial dermatitis) can be caught from contact with little snails that live on the reeds around marshy lakes and stagnant ponds. It creates a temporary but sometimes intense itching sensation that can last for up to two days. It’s not common, and requires no treatment, but it’s best to avoid wallowing in the bogs when outdoor swimming! 

Leptospirosis - In urban areas sewers and storm drains may harbour colonies of rats whose urine may carry the bacterial infection Leptospirosis. Never swim in urban rivers, particularly canals, and be particularly cautious after heavy rains. If you are concerned about water quality cover any open wound with a waterproof plaster and keep your head (eyes, nose and throat) out of the water as much as possible. If you get flu or jaundice-like symptoms three to fourteen days after swimming in high risk water ask your doctor for a Leptospirosis test. It is simply treated with antibiotics but if left it can develop into the more serious Weil’s disease, which has been known to kill. 

Moving water and currents Lots of our best water moves and river swimming in and against a current can be fun, just like swimming in seaside surf. However, you generally want to avoid being taken downstream in an uncontrolled manner. Even shallow water, if it’s moving fast enough, can knock you over and carry you away. Always consider: if I do lose my footing or get swept downstream, where will I get out? Identify your emergency exits before getting in and scout around for any downstream hazards (obstructions, waterfalls or weirs).


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