Keeping safe near the Severn

Keeping safe near the Severn


A water safety course championed by a Shrewsbury woman whose husband drowned in the River Severn has now been completed by 13,000 individuals online and a further 2,000 offline.

The new details were given to Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club during a zoom talk by Kirsty Walsh, ambassador for the West Mercia Search and Rescue volunteers, who campaigns for water safety measures on the River Severn. She told Rotarians that the Home and Dry course can be accessed online and adapted to the age ranges in schools, a lot of them were very supportive – and responsive – before Covid-19.

Said Kirsty: “I would like water safety to be part of the national curriculum. We know schools and colleges who have championed the course. I am not a strong swimmer at all with no upper body strength. But I am very keen to teach my children to swim which is definitely of huge importance.”

She told how she became an ambassador for West Mercia Search and Rescue. “These people got my husband Shane out of the horrible cold water. I understood it must have been very uncomfortable for the team having me on scene so I left and then reached out on social media to them.

“I said I’ll do anything to thank you guys for what you have done for me and it was then I became ambassador of the team. Shane died in September 2017 and in December 2017 I was patrolling and telling members of the public of the dangers of the water. “I work in education and go out to schools and colleges to try and spread the message of water safety. I worked with the police, fire and council to make changes to the aware of where my husband entered the water. He fell into the water over a low wall which propelled him forwards. I appreciate speaking to Rotary to hopefully spread the message of water safety. Most of the people who enter the water don’t have the intention to do so. It is easy to slip into the water on nights out so we have really been focusing on highlighting the dangers of the water especially where night time life comes into it.

“He was stood watching the water and it is on a gradual decline and when I went round there to look at the area where the plaque is there is a little ladder to get yourself out. However, Shane was unable to rescue himself. After Shane’s death myself, police, fire and council looked at the area where Shane died. We highlighted the areas of concern. I am pleased to say that the area was changed and adapted to make it safer for individuals. For example, hedgerow was placed to enable it to push individuals back rather than propel them into the water. There has also been a throwline stand, in Shane’s memory, placed in the area to aid others if they do find themselves in the water.”

Added Kirsty: “It is the shock value to my story that makes people think about it – you never expect it to happen to you.”

Speaker secretary Garth Joscelyne said: “People are not always aware of the dangers of large rivers and it is fantastic you have channelled your energies into following the personal approach. It is a niche which comes through so strongly.” Said club president John Law: “It is absolutely amazing the way you are dealing with a personal tragedy and then going forward in that way.”

Kirsty is ‘Home and Dry’ with Shrewsbury Severn Rotary

Julian Wells

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