Young people, some fuelled by drink, are risking their lives ‘tombstoning’ – jumping or diving from a height into water unsupervised – into the sea and rivers where they could hit unseen objects or land badly.
Cases this summer include a woman who broke both legs and was airlifted to hospital after leaping into the sea and hitting submerged rocks in Winspit, Dorset; and young boys spotted diving from scaffolding on a sailing club building into the sea in Plymouth.
Alongside the risk of hitting submerged objects, jumping into open water where temperatures can be half that of typical swimming pools can also cause cold water shock. Cold water shock, which can affect breathing and movement, is one of the biggest causes of drowning.
The LGA, which represents not only councils but all 48 fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales, is calling for the dangers of cold water shock to be taught in swimming lessons.
If schools don’t arrange swimming lessons for their pupils, they should receive safety advice as part of their personal, social, health and economic (PHSE) lessons.
Cllr Morris Bright, Vice-Chairman of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Tombstoning is extremely dangerous and anyone doing it is dicing with death, or risks ending up with life-changing or serious injuries.
“The message is clear – if you don’t know that the depth of the water is safe or you cannot see what is below the surface, don’t jump or let alcohol, drugs or peer pressure affect your judgement.”
Since 2004, the Coastguard has dealt with more than 200 incidents of tombstoning, with 70 injuries and 20 deaths.