The dangers of swimming in open water

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Safety messages from the fire service

Crews from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service were called to rescue a young girl from the Windrush River on Sunday afternoon. Two fire engines from Witney and a specialist rescue crew from Kidlington attended the scene.

A member of the public who was passing by had managed to remove the girl from the water. Attending crews then worked alongside colleagues from South Central Ambulance service to provide life-saving first aid, until the arrival of an air ambulance. The rescued girl was then air-lifted to an intensive care unit at the John Radcliffe hospital.

Station Manager Tom Brandon, who attended the incident, said: “Wild swimming can be very tempting, particularly when the weather is as hot as it has been in recent weeks, but this incident just goes to show that rivers can be extremely hazardous places. Figures from the National Water Safety Forum show there were 255 accidental drownings in the UK last year, so I would strongly advise members of the public to enjoy the water under the watchful eye of a trained lifeguard at a public swimming pool.” for Community Safety advice. 

If you have a Community Safety question please call the free phone helpline on 08000 325 999 or

Public safety messages from the fire service

Reservoirs, lakes, rivers and other inland water may look safe and inviting, particularly on a warm day. But there are hidden dangers below the surface that could make you ill, hurt you, and at worst could kill you.

Even on a warm day, the temperature of the water in a reservoir, quarry or lake can remain very cold. The low water temperature can numb limbs and claim lives.

From out of the water, or above the water, you may not be able to see what’s under the water. That could be anything from large rocks to machinery; from shopping trolleys to dead branches, and even fish hooks or broken fishing line, all of which could injure you.

Moving water, such as rivers, may look calm but may have strong currents below the surface. Even reservoirs can have currents, caused by working machinery. Whether you’re a strong swimmer or not, currents can carry you into danger.