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Safety warning for boaters

PUBLISHED: 10:58 01 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:29 30 June 2010

BOATERS are being urged to sign up for a free service which could potentially save their life after a boat became jammed against a bridge on a fast-flowing river.

BOATERS are being urged to sign up for a free service which could potentially save their life after a boat became jammed against a bridge on a fast-flowing river.

The incident, on the River Nene at Irthlingborough, has prompted the Environment Agency to appeal to boat owners to sign up to receive Strong Stream Advice (SSA).

Strong Stream Advice is sent to registered boaters when high water levels and fast flow rates occur after heavy rain. This could pose a risk to craft using Environment Agency navigations.

Heavy rain - or melting snow - can lead to an increase in water level and reduce headroom under bridges and other structures. The dangers of this were dramatically highlighted on January 17 when a 65ft narrow boat became trapped across a bridge on the River Nene.

It took Environment Agency operations delivery staff and several fire crews, including a specialist water rescue team, more than three hours to turn the boat to enable it to pass safely under the bridge.

At one stage, an attempt to winch it free had to be abandoned because the force of the water against the craft and its position against the bridge meant it was in danger of tipping over.

Jan Cebula, of operations delivery, helped free the stricken boat.

He said: “As the boater approached the bridge, he realised how strong the current was and decided to try and turn back to his original mooring point. This meant turning against the flow. This was a bad mistake because as soon as the boat's front end moved off line of the flow, the water caught the boat broadside and swept it up tight against the bridge arches.

“The high water flow against the side of the boat pinned it firmly in this position leaving the boater trapped on his boat in the middle of a river in spate with a high potential for the boat to be 'rolled' by the current. This was a life-threatening situation for the trapped boater.”

Irven Forbes, Area Waterways Manager at the Environment Agency, added: “Thankfully, no one was hurt in this incident but it could so easily have ended in tragedy.

“The Environment Agency had issued Strong Stream Advice warning boaters against navigating on the River Nene when this incident took place but, for one reason or another, it was not heeded.

“It is vital people know the state of the river before boating - it could make the difference between life and death. Therefore, we are appealing to all boaters registered with the Environment Agency to ensure they sign up to receive Strong Stream Advice from us and then listen to the advice we give.”

The SSA service sends messages to mobile phones and landlines at any time of the day or night. Boaters can also sign up to receive texts or e-mail alerts.

For more information or to sign up for SSA messages, please contact Mandy Doolan, Environment Agency, Waterside House, Waterside North, Lincoln. LN2 5HA or email mandy.doolan@environment-agency.gov.uk.

Alternatively, call the SSA line for updates at any time by phoning 0845 9881188.

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