With the late May bank holiday almost upon us, Kent Fire and Rescue Service is urging people not to put their lives at risk by entering the water at Yalding weir in Maidstone.
It’s a hotspot for water rescue incidents, and just recently a group of children had a lucky escape when the sluice gates suddenly opened – turning what appears to be a shallow and calm piece of water, into a raging torrent.
Ahead of the long weekend, when many people will flock there to enjoy the pretty surroundings, KFRS has released a video to illustrate the dangers and how quickly the conditions of the water can change.
It shows highly trained KFRS water safety instructor, Chris Kendall, in full protective kit, walking around in calm, knee-height water. The sluice gates then open and he tries to withstand the force of the water, but it overpowers him and he is washed down stream.
At the peak of the flow, the amount of water bursting through the gate was 10 tonnes per second.
All necessary safety precautions were in place during the filming to make sure he was safe – but normally when people enter the water, they don’t have a crew right there ready to save them, and they’re not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
Chris said: “Even with all my training and skills in water, I couldn’t stay on my feet when the sluice gates opened. The water hit me with quite a force and became much deeper very quickly - I don’t think many people, especially children, would be able to save themselves in those conditions.
“I was wearing full kit to stay protected and afloat and I’m trained to know how to react to all sorts of water conditions, and I couldn’t stop myself from being washed away. Without a personal floatation devise on, I probably would have been pushed under the water due to the hidden currents, and I could have been sent down a much more dangerous route if I didn’t have the skill to steer myself.
“My advice to anyone considering entering the water at Yalding weir this bank holiday weekend, or at any time, is don’t risk it and stay out – it’s not a swimming pool.”