Warning to stay away from canal and rivers following West Leeds teacher tragedy


Avoid open water swimming in canals, rivers and reservoirs in West Leeds – that’s the plea from the the Canal & River Trust as a mini-heatwave strikes.

Temperatures are set to soar to almost 30 degrees centigrade on Friday, sparking concerns that people might take a dip to cool off.

Less than two months ago Farnley Academy teacher Lewis Howlett, aged 25, drowned after entering the River Aire at Redcote Lane in Kirkstall, leading to warnings about the dangers of swimming in open waterways.

Tragic: Lewis Howlett

Towpaths along the Leeds Liverpool Canal saw a massive increase in usage during lockdown as people stayed local and discovered these green/blue linear parks on their doorstep.

John Gibson, area operations manager for Canal & River Trust, said:

“We’ve seen more people than ever relaxing and reaping the health benefits of spending time by water. With bright skies and warm sunshine forecast from tomorrow we’re expecting our waterways and reservoirs to be popular.

“We are welcoming people to the waterside but are particularly concerned about people enjoying a post-lockdown drink and then going for a dip, young people and children who could be unaware of the hidden dangers of swimming in our waterways.”

The Trust is highlighting other ways to cool down that avoid getting in the water:

  • Lounge in the shade of waterside trees rather than getting tangled in waterway reeds.
  • Chill out on the bank and enjoy the peacefulness of being beside water.
  • If you want to jump and dive, wait for your local swimming pool to open, don’t get in locks or canals which can be shallow and have obstructions below the waterline
  • Cool down with an ice-lolly, drink or ice-cream at a waterside café.

Following Mr Howlett’s death in May, Detective Inspector James Entwistle, of Leeds District CID, warned of the dangers of swimming in open water. He said:

“We hope that people will recognise the risks and the tragic consequences that can occur and avoid swimming in open water, no matter how tempting it might be in the hot weather.”

To help with water safety education at home the Water Explorers team has compiled a range of free activities, resources and games, which can be found here. Find out more about staying safe near canals and rivers here.


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