River safety summit calls for ‘education’

York Press: Julia Mulligan Julia Mulligan

EDUCATION about the dangers of York's rivers is the key to preventing further tragedy, agencies in York have said.

Ideas put forward at the river safety summit in York on Tuesday included city-wide training for door staff, taxi drivers, police and street angels on how to deal with vulnerable people, greater engagement with students, and more work with visitors and residents.

The meeting was held just days after the body of Ben Clarkson was found in the River Foss, and weeks after Megan Roberts was found in the Ouse. Both had disappeared after nights out in the city.

Dave Benson, founder of the York Rescue Boat, said the meeting was a positive step, but he would continue to appeal for volunteers for the charity as well as joining a united campaign.

He said: "I would like to think that there will be steps to make it further with another co-ordinated talk. There were a lot of ideas put out there tonight but it seemed everybody's voices wanted to be heard.

"If we can work with the agencies that will be great. I think education is one of the keys, it's just how that message is delivered. It's just about working together and bringing the agencies and ideas together."

Mr Benson said the meeting showed "a lot of positive support" and "some great ideas", but the meeting

Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, organised the meeting, and said yesterday it led to a "clear agenda for change", and "some specific actions to develop".

She said: "In the last 15 years, there have been at least 25 river deaths in York and recent tragedies have called the issue into sharp focus.

“Having met the partner of one of those who has fallen victim to our rivers, I know they are adamant something positive needs to come out of their sadness. I very much welcome the chance to work with victims' families, as well as the commitment given by partners such as City of York Council and others to turn our words into actions.”

Mr Benson said: "I'm still going to carry on with the rescue boat.

"Education is the main thing but the difficulty with that is we have a huge student population and the fact it's still geared towards them, but they aren't to be seen on Saturday afternoons, for example. It's people from Doncaster and Newcastle. It's the bigger picture, and I think it's going to be very difficult to get one message out to everyone."

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