Tragic Leeds mum hails river safety lines

Jackie Roberts. PIC: James Hardisty
Jackie Roberts. PIC: James Hardisty
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The mother of a Leeds woman who drowned after a night out will join firefighters in the city tomorrow as they unveil new lifesaving equipment and highlight the dangers of drinking alcohol near water.

Jackie Roberts has lent her support to the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) scheme, which will see throwlines put in place alongside a one-mile stretch of the River Aire in the city centre.

Her 20-year-old daughter, Megan, drowned in the River Ouse in York in 2014 after a night out drinking with friends.

And it is further tragedies like this which the scheme aims to prevent by giving the public access to rescue equipment.

Russ Hepton, District Commander for Leeds, said: “These throwlines will enable ‘would-be’ rescuers to act whilst removing the temptation to enter the water, thus significantly reducing risk and preventing further casualties being in the water as crews arrive.”

The idea came from Leeds fire crews as the service sought to increase the survival rate of water rescue casualties before the emergency services arrive.

Leeds city centre has the highest number of water related incidents in the county, with 80 rescues attended since 2012.

National figures show around 50 per cent of people who drown never intended to enter the water and around a third of all under 30s have alcohol in their systems when they drown.

It means that knowing how to respond quickly, safely and appropriately can help save lives.

And that is the very message which Leeds White watch, Mrs Roberts and partner agencies will promote when they showcase the new equipment outside the Royal Armouries tomorrow.

Mr Hepton said: “WYFRS are committed to eliminating deaths by drowning in Leeds city centre and we will work tirelessly with our partners to achieve this challenging goal.”


The new rescue equipment put in place alongside the River Aire is designed to be readily available if needed but also had to be effectively secured to prevent theft, damage or misuse.

Unlike the life rings currently in place, the throwlines will be stored in a locked box near the water.

Members of the public who spot someone in the river should follow the simple instructions set out on the marker board.

It tells them to call 999, ask for the fire service and request a padlock code to access the throwline.

The marker boards give an accurate location so responding crews know exactly where to go.