TWO men sparked disbelief by swimming across York’s River Ouse as a cruise boat was heading towards them.

Police were called in by City Cruises York yesterday afternoon after the pair decided to swim between King’s Staith and Queen’s Staith.

Officers went to the riverside and gave the men "words of advice", said a force spokeswoman, adding: “We have seen too many tragedies in the River Ouse and plead with people not to risk their lives and enter it.

“We know it’s hot, we know people want to cool down, but there are better ways to do it than risking your life by swimming in a busy city centre river full of unknown hazards, water craft, dangerous currents and very cold water that can cause your body to shut down within minutes.”

Sharon Scott, whose 29-year-old son Steven O’Neill was one of five people who drowned in York’s rivers during three weeks in April, said the pair’s actions showed there was a huge need for an educational programme about the dangers posed by the rivers, particularly for people unfamiliar with them.

Kate Ferry, whose 19-year-old son Sonny was another of the victims, said: “This is a further terrifying example that the message is not getting out.

“Every life is precious, and it’s not enough for judgements to be made hailing young men as stupid or foolish, or as drunk and therefore deserving of their fate - a fate which is all too often a horrible needless death.

“Young men are known to be risk takers, and to be daring, especially when they have an audience looking on. Naivety and bravado is not a crime.”

Rachel Lacy, of York Rescue Boat, said: "With the spate of river deaths this year - for a variety of different reasons - it’s almost beyond belief that people are still risking their lives in this way.

“As well as the risks associated with cold water shock, underwater entrapment hazards and diseases to contend with, there is a lot more traffic on the river in summer, so swimming in the Ouse at this time is akin to playing on a main road, but with vehicles that cannot do an emergency stop.

“We’ve had a number of speeding vessels on the river over the last few weeks, all with propeller engines, the injuries that could be incurred would at best be life-changing, if not fatal.

“Despite the support of the local media we still don’t seem to be getting through to people that river fatalities can happen for so many reasons.

“The vocal majority on social media are still perpetuating the myth that it’s just drunks (with or without student/race goer/young adults suffixed), or that it’s the currents that are a problem not coldness of the water.

“Although ultimately age, activity and alcohol are irrelevant to our rescues, we will always try to get people out regardless of these factors - a life is a life."

City Cruises York was unavailable for comment.