Loch Lomond: calls for safety measures after four people drown

Family of a previous victim and a local MSP say demands for action to prevent tragedies have been ignored

Urgent calls have been made for water patrols and safety warnings on Loch Lomond after four people drowned during the hot weather in Scotland.

The family of a teenage girl killed there last year and a local MSP accused Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park and the Scottish fire and rescue service (SFRS) of ignoring their demands for safety measures to prevent drownings.

Two members of one family and a close friend drowned after their children went swimming off Pulpit Rock near Ardlui on Saturday evening, and a teenager, Connor Markward, 16, died in a separate incident on Friday.

In all, six people were killed in water-related incidents in Scotland over the weekend: an 11-year-old boy died in a river near Stonehouse, South Lanarkshire, and a 13-year-old drowned in the Clyde near Lanark on Sunday.

Waris Ali described trying to rescue his wife, Edina Olahova, 29, and their son Rana Haris Ali, nine, before they died alongside their friend Muhammad Asim Riaz, 39. Their second son, aged seven, is in intensive care in hospital after being rescued with the help of a passerby.

Ali told Sky News the group were returning home from a holiday on Skye when their sons went into the water to cool off but found it much deeper than expected. When the boys got into difficulty, the adults went in after them.

“I managed to stay afloat and head towards the shallow water, but when I got out, I saw my wife’s hands outside and just her eyes out of the water,” he said. “I took my shirt off and threw it to her so she could grab it, but she couldn’t. I then went to go and get help.”

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, said after Ava Gray, 12, drowned in the River Leven at Balloch – at the southern end of the loch – last year she had urged the national park, local councils and SFRS to put up warnings signs and lifebuoys, and have rescue craft on standby, as at other popular bathing spots.

Baillie, the MSP for Dumbarton, said the latest fatalities highlighted the urgent need for additional safety measures, including having lifeguards on duty during the summer months.

She said many people assumed the loch was shallow, particularly at popular beauty spots, but there were too few warning signs or notices recommending safe places to bathe. “There’s a false sense of security if people aren’t aware how dangerous the loch can be,” she said.

Ava Gray’s uncle James Gillies posted a petition online after the deaths at the weekend accusing public agencies of ignoring the family’s calls last year for safety measures.

“Too many children are losing their lives in our waters and changes need to be made,” Gillies said. “We would like to see water markers indicating dangerous areas, visible signage erected to warn of dangers, more safety and buoyancy equipment available and more visible patrols.

“Although we are particularly concerned about Loch Lomond, it is clear that this is a national problem that needs [to be] addressed.”

Simon Jones, the national park’s director of environment and visitor services, said it had installed new safety equipment and clear signage at various points. West Dunbartonshire council said it was installing 15 new pieces of safety equipment along its area of loch and riverside and had park rangers on patrol.

The SFRS said it could use specialist search and rescue boats when required, but did not offer to place one in Loch Lomond full-time.

Jones said there were daily patrols of the loch but it would investigate what more needed to be done after the “devastating” recent events.

“This has undoubtedly been one of the worst weekends in the national park’s history,” he said. “Supporting people to know how to enjoy the water bodies of the national park safely is of the utmost importance to us.”


Severin Carrell Scotland editor

The GuardianTramp

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