London Fire Brigade

Brigade concerned about heatwave Serpentine swim

09 May 2016

We have today reissued our drowning-prevention advice, having been shown video footage of a young man jumping into the Serpentine in central London during the heatwave at the weekend.

The video, uploaded to a Facebook group, shows a young man balancing on a post in the water and then eventually jumping off into the water. His friends are shown playing on a boat nearby.

The Brigade's Head of Community Safety, Chris O'Connor, said: "It's incredibly dangerous to jump into water like this because it's impossible to see hidden obstacles under the surface. It's very easy to slip and get into difficulties.

Danger: Stills taken from the video posted on Facebook show a young man jumping into the shallow water of the Serpentine. © Daniel Cruz Santos/Facebook

"It's tempting to jump into water like canals, lakes and rivers to cool down during the warmer weather, but it's just not worth the risk.

"Sadly people drown each year and we'd hate for someone else to become another statistic for the sake of having a laugh or showing off to their mates."

Thirteen water related fatalities

The Brigade's statistics show that there have been 13 water related fatalities in London in the last three years.

In the summer months, the Brigade attends at least one water related incident a week and crews carry out an average of 30 water rescues every year. 

In London, over the last three years, firefighters have attended 128 incidents involving people in water and carried out 92 rescues.

Serpentine death in 2014

In April 2014 the Brigade was called to reports of a man who had entered the Serpentine and not resurfaced.

Rescue crews carried out a systematic search of the water and the man was sadly not found and his body was recovered from the water the next day. 

What do to if someone falls in

The Brigade's water safety advice is as follows:

  • If someone falls into deep water the first thing is to call for help straightaway. 
  • Call 999 and ask for the fire service and ambulance. When you have made this call, shout for help from anyone who might be close by.
  • Never enter the water to try and save someone. This can add to the problem even if you are a strong swimmer. 
  • If there's no lifesaving equipment, look around for something to reach out to them such as a scarf or a long stick. 
  • Lie on the ground so your body is safely on the edge to avoid being pulled in. 
  • If you do manage to get them out of the water, always seek medical attention – if water has entered the lungs then it can cause death up to 48 hours after the incident.

The national picture

National figures show 338 people died from accidental drowning across the UK last year and Chief Fire Officers Association figures show:

  • A quarter of drowning victims had alcohol in their system.
  • Runners and walkers are the largest at risk group accounting for 138 of fatalities last year.
  • Twice as many people die angling than sailing.