Shropshire Star

'Plan your route, stick together and avoid the river' urge campaigners ahead of New Year parties

Revellers in Shrewsbury and other riverside towns have been urged to plan routes homes, stick together with friends and steer clear of the river by safety campaigners this New Year's Eve.

West Mercia Search and Rescue ambassador Kirsty Walsh

Party-goers are expected to turn out in force at Shropshire's most popular nightspots as well as go to house parties to see in the new year.

But river safety campaigners and the emergency services have urged people to take care. It comes after the deaths of two young men in the river earlier this year in Shrewsbury, as well as several rescues from the water.

Kirsty Walsh, whose husband Shane died in 2017 after falling in the river, is now an ambassador for the West Mercia Search and Rescue team, and has been in Shrewsbury town centre during the festive period telling people of the dangers.

"The recent patrols that we've done have been really positive but it shows there still needs to be more awareness about safety. Some people didn't know about cold water shock," she said.

"There were a lot of Christmas parties out and people with their families and friends. They were in high spirits and enjoying themselves. We were able to speak to lots of individuals and people were pleased to see us. Lots of them thanked us for the work we're doing.

"We went by The Armoury and patrolled down by the Quarry as well as some of the venues that are open late."

Kirsty added: "We were there to highlight the dangers and raise awareness. I always say to people, it's as easy as slipping off a kerb. It can happen to anyone, and water does not discriminate.

"I think the main thing is planning your route home and staying with your friends. Quite often people lose touch with their friends when they're out, especially when alcohol is involved.

"Stay away from open water. Be a mate and get home safe. I would also encourage people to look at the Home and Dry water safety course to learn more about keeping yourself safe while enjoying the river."

Victoria Ireland, who runs the Make Our River Safer campaign group, suggested several tips, including staying with friends, having a route home planned and having a back-up if your taxi falls through.

She said: "It's always a good idea if you've got someone you can phone to come and get you."

She added: "Make sure you don't walk home along the river. Friends and family, stick together. If one of your group needs to leave, make sure someone goes with them do they're not on their own."

Victoria also urged people to take care in pubs and bars and to let someone know if you see somebody vulnerable. She described seeing a young woman "comatose" in a bar on a night out during the festive period.

"If you see something, inform the door staff. It's better to get someone to come and help rather than leave them."

West Midlands Ambulance Service received over 3,000 emergency 999 calls between 6pm and 6am on New Year's Eve going into New Year's Day last year, the busiest it has ever been.

WMAS said it is expecting a large proportion of calls to be alcohol-related. A spokesman said: “The last thing we want to do is to spoil people’s fun; we would just ask people to take responsibility for themselves and their own actions when they are out celebrating to make sure they have a safe and fun night to remember.

“We’d like to thank the many staff who have given their night up with family and friends to come and work an additional shift with us. Our staff will inevitably work flat out while the majority of the public celebrate the arrival of 2023.”

Judith Bryce, assistant director of operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “New Year’s Eve is traditionally very busy for us and this year is likely to be no exception given the level of demand we have seen so far this month.

“The number of immediately life-threatening ‘Red’ calls we’ve had in the last seven days was 62 pre cent higher than the same period last year, while demand on our 111 service has more than doubled compared to last year.

“The health system is under significant pressure currently and we all have a part to play in ensuring that we protect our precious resources for those who need them most – please act responsibly and help us to help you."

West Mercia Search and Rescue's Home and Dry water safety course is at