L-R: Sgt Brian Simpson, Police Scotland, Group Commander Albert Bruce, SFRS, Councillor Jonathan McColl, Scott McLelland, West Dunbartonshire Council, Leigh Hamilton, Loch Lomond Ranger Manager, Tony Coia, Open Water Rescue, Inspector Allan Kirk, Police Scotland, Group Commander, Des Oakes, SFRS
Working together to enhance public safety measures in the River Leven area, an area which has sadly witnessed water fatalities, includes the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Police Scotland, West Dunbartonshire Council, National Park Rangers and Open Water Rescue.
Assistance in the area is also provided by local community groups who report missing items direct to the local authority.
The River Leven project forms part of a wider multi-agency partnership which is working collaboratively on all issues regarding water safety and brings together the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Police Scotland, Scottish Ambulance Service, Open Water Rescue, RNLI, Coastguard, Scottish Water, Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park Rangers, Loch Lomond Rescue Boat, Scottish Canals, West Dunbartonshire Council, RoSPA and Water Safety Scotland
In December 2021 lifebelts were installed on all of the eight bridges which cross the River Leven, with two lifebelts per bridge, a total of 16 new life saving devices.
These new safety devices were funded by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service who donated money to local community group Open Water Rescue, who purchased the lifebelts which were then installed by West Dunbartonshire Council.
Sadly, lifebelts installed at Bonhill Bridge, Dumbarton Bridge and Stuckie Bridge have been removed with many of them carelessly discarded into the water. It’s an on-going problem, as only last week the lifebelts on Stuckie Bridge were removed again for the third time, requiring them to be continually replaced.
Area Commander Joe Mckay is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Local Senior Officer for Argyll and Bute and East and West Dunbartonshire. He said: “Safety is a priority and we are committed to working with our partners to effect any measures to help keep people safe. We assisted Open Water Rescue by donating funding to secure these new lifebelts and it is extremely disappointing to see all of this hard work being treated in this manner. These lifebelts are there to help keep members of the public safe and they are a vital resource for an area which has sadly witnessed fatalities.
“It is also extremely important that we keep reminding the public about the dangers of water and how to stay safe near water, and we will continue work closely with our partners.”
Police Scotland Chief Inspector Coleen Wylie, Local Area Commander said: “These devices save lives and stealing or vandalising them could cost lives. Removing and damaging lifesaving equipment can have fatal consequences. If the equipment is not there when it is really needed the outcome can be very tragic. If you are involved in this behaviour, you will be prosecuted. We will continue to work with our partners towards enhancing water safety in our local area and we ask the public to report any vandalisms or misuse of this equipment to us."
West Dunbartonshire Council Leader, Councillor Jonathan McColl, said: “We are shocked and disappointed that this vital lifesaving equipment continues to be targeted by mindless thieves.
“These life buoys are in place to help save lives in an emergency and if unavailable, there could be devastating consequences for anyone who gets into difficulty in the water.
“Removing this equipment is not only very dangerous, but also uses up significant resource as partners address damage and pay to reinstall.
“I want to again stress the importance of protecting this equipment for our communities, and urge anyone who has any information to contact Police Scotland immediately.”
Antony Coia, Secretary, Open Water Rescue, said: "Open Water Rescue volunteers have worked tirelessly with the West Dunbartonshire Partnership Approach to Water Safety (PAWs) group to ensure that water safety around the River Leven has been increased for its communities.
“Unfortunately, due to spates of ongoing vandalism, our volunteers have had to divert their time to recover the Public Rescue Equipment. Hopefully the community can work together and help prevent this from happening again in the future."
Anyone with information should contact the free and confidential Crimestoppers helpline on 0800 555 111.
Residents are asked to report any missing or damaged life-saving equipment around West Dunbartonshire by emailing email@example.com immediately.
For more information on water safety: https://www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-safety/outdoors/water-safety/