Deadly games

TEENAGERS are dicing with death swimming in the River Ribble near Longridge on a stretch notorious for its hidden, deep whirlpool and strong undercurrents.

Dozens of youngsters have been flocking to the known danger spot at the bottom of Alston Lane near to Boot Farm, Alston, since the start of the school summer holidays, drawn by the prospect of a cooling dip during the heatwave.

But a grandmother living nearby says the children, mostly aged 13-15 and believed to be from the Longridge and Grimsargh area, are putting their lives at risk.

She says the teenagers are swimming at the exact spot in the river where a man drowned about eight years ago and where last summer a young boy had a lucky escape when he was rescued by a fisherman.

She believes the girls and boys are unaware of the hazards and says: "I just feel I should warn people of the dangers of swimming there."

Although the grandmother and her husband do try to warn the young people themselves, she says they are not heeding their advice.

She said: "We have always had a few come down, but this year there are such a lot of them and I think it is more dangerous when there are a lot of them messing around together and they dare one another.

"Without being a killjoy, I feel I would like the young people and their parents to realise what could happen."

She says the man who drowned there had been in an inflatable canoe and got into difficulties when he fell out and into the strong current at the spot where the whirlpool lurks.

"A lot of the older people in Longridge know about the dangers but there are so many new people here now that they may not know about it.

"Last year a boy got into difficulties and fortunately a fisherman waded into the river up to chest depth and managed to reach him with his fishing rod and was able to pull him out.

"The current had got hold of him and he was not able to get away," she said.

The young people are not generally accompanied by adults and she says the spot, opposite Balderstone Hall, was extremely deceptive - the water much deeper on the Balderstone side.

"It is so enticing to dive in and swim, but the undercurrents are so dangerous," she said.

Her warnings have been backed by others who frequent the river, and a source close to The News, who has fished in the area for 40 years and played there as a youngster, said:

"The Ribble is a dangerous river. Rivers are not swimming pools, they have to be respected. You do not know what is under the water which is full of hazards, both man made and natural. "Besides some very deep stretches, the channels, undercurrents, the whirlpools which are known as 'wheels', shelving and hazardous banking, there are snags such as trees, branches, bits of old cars and tyres, plastic bags and discarded fishing line. It is full of junk.

"At the moment the water is very low and there is also the added danger of pollution.

"If the young people want to swim they should go to swimming pools. They are not playgrounds and the grandmother has every right to be concerned."

Agencies such as British Waterways and United Utilities are also warning people not to swim in rivers, canals and reservoirs this summer.

A spokesman for British Waterways said; "The glistening water may look inviting on a warm day, but canals and rivers are not for swimming in. Water is frequently far colder than expected and can lead to muscle cramps in even the strongest of swimmers.

"It's particularly important over the summer to ensure that children are always supervised when near to water."

Only last week, United Utilities warned of the dangers of swimming in the area's reservoirs after two teenagers were spotted at Spade Mill Reservoir, both wearing swimming gear.