A LIFEBELT installed on a York riverside following the drowning of a young man has disappeared – and it appears it may not be replaced because of a wrangle over who is responsible for it.

BT installed the ring at the back of its Stonebow telephone exchange in the summer after an inquest heard how rescuers were hampered in their efforts to save Liam Davey when he fell in the River Foss, because they couldn’t find a belt in the area.

A passerby eventually jumped in and dived repeatedly to the bottom of the river, where he eventually found Liam lying. He brought him to the surface and attempted to revive him, but he died in hospital the next day from multiple organ failure caused by drowning.

Liam’s father Nigel said after the inquest that the site was open to the public and he thought the landowner had a responsibility to ensure such equipment was available. After The Press informed BT about the inquest evidence, the company provided a lifebelt in the hope it would help prevent further tragedies.

Kate Ferry, who has been campaigning for safety improvements on York’s rivers since her 19-year-old son Sonny drowned in the Foss in April, said at the time that she welcomed the installation of the lifebelt but felt it was “shameful” it had not already been in place when Liam went into the water,

Now the ring has disappeared and Liam’s uncle has slammed ‘mindless idiots’ who have either stolen it or thrown it in the water.

He posted on Facebook: “Been in York today and it’s so sad to see that the new life ring that was installed after my nephew Liam’s death in the river last year has been stolen or just thrown down river by mindless idiots!”

Asked by The Press whether it would be replacing the lost lifebelt, a BT spokesperson said it had donated one to the community in the summer, which sadly had been stolen.

“As it is not BT’s responsibility to provide or maintain safety equipment in the locality, we intend to have discussions with City of York Council to raise the matter,” he added.

But James Gilchrist, assistant director of transport, highways and environment at the council, said that owners of riverbanks, particularly those with public access, needed to consider the risks and might deem it appropriate to provide safety equipment.

“Where we own riverbanks and where we and RoSPA have identified risks, we have invested over £150,000 in recent years on improving river safety including increasing the number of modern lifebelts with floating lines, and installing safety fencing and exit ladders,” he said.

“As part of York’s river safety group, we continue to offer advice and support to private landowners, and look forward to working with BT.”