Drowning near Shepperton Lake may push national change to UK Open Water Swimming


River Thames Drowning At Desborough Starts Change


An unnamed man sadly drowned on the evening of Friday 12th August in the River Thames near Desborough Island in Shepperton. (Source: BBC and local sources)

The man appeared to be engaging in recreational activities near the bank of the Thames before accidentally falling into the River, sinking and not resurfacing.

This happened within sight of Shepperton Lake and many swimmers, including the lifeguards on duty with their canoes, came to help. The body was found later that night by the emergency services and relatives were informed.

Whilst this event was not within the confines of the Open Water Swimming facilities at Shepperton Lake the organisers there were, nevertheless, naturally shaken by the incident. The lake’s policy has now changed so that anyone who is not wearing a wetsuit must use a tow float (safety buoy) which is an inexpensive item and which the Lake also rents out for a nominal sum.

Cause of death? – I talked to the owner of the Lake who was there that evening and who was surprised to have learnt that it is possible to sink and drown if a swimmer panics and takes a lung full of water, further surprising with water temperatures in the region of 24-Celcius. Yet, that is what appears to have happened. She decided on a change of Lake Policy in the event that anything similar might happen in the future at Shepperton Lake. Whilst the Tow Float might not stop someone from going under it will be a clear marker for rescuers to quickly get the person to the surface and significantly increase the chances of the person’s life being saved.

So this tragedy has already caused one lake to review its safety policy and we might start to see many more Tow Floats being required for non-wetsuit swimmers at organised open water locations throughout the UK. This seems a sensible move to me, especially with higher water temperatures encouraging more people to swim without wetsuits and a general uptake in the numbers of novice open water swimmers.




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6 thoughts on “Drowning near Shepperton Lake may push national change to UK Open Water Swimming

  1. Makes sense, when I started out open water swimming I often used the tow float to help when I needed a rest. Certainly wouldn’t dream of swimming in the sea without one. Plus if you get one with storage, it’s a handy place for snacks, keys and phone.

  2. A tow float is a very simple and effective aid to safety, unfortunately those most likely to drown ie teenage boys and young men playing in and near the water in summer are also those least likely to heed safety advice or wear them. Maybe a concerted effort to deliver the safety message in school could make a difference. Wouldn’t it be great if these youngsters could recieve some instruction regarding how to assess risk in open water rather than the current move to prohibit access?

    1. girls aren’t immune (https://metro.co.uk/2022/08/16/stalybridge-teenage-girl-dies-in-water-during-heatwave-17190099/) but, point taken on the ‘most likely’ caveat you add.
      where i live near teddington lock, the relatively safe beach-based area is cordoned off, so the kids (mostly boys!) jump in the deep part near the lock from the bridge. the bridge is also cordoned off so they have to climb precariously around the cordon. it’s pretty dangerous and I suspect most of the kids have either had warning at school or (unlikely) seen them on the news.
      the forced increased prevalence of tow flots in supervised swimming probably wont directly affect deaths of the supposedly competent swimmers who would be forced to use them. BUT that would make me buy one and then I might be inclined to use it, for example, at other times if i swum in the sea so it might indirectly save the lives of competent swimmers in more dangerous swim scenarios

  3. If it’s a rule, it should be a rule for all. People in wetsuits are not necessarily safer so why not make them wear one too? Not that I consider it a safety device, but I do agree it makes people easier to find after the fact.

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