‘Mindless’ thieves stealing life saving equipment on our shores

Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor George Duddy, HM Coastguard, Gordon Munro and Ricky McArthur, Portstewart Harbour Master and Coleraine Borough Council's Marina Superintendent.
Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor George Duddy, HM Coastguard, Gordon Munro and Ricky McArthur, Portstewart Harbour Master and Coleraine Borough Council's Marina Superintendent.

Coleraine Borough Council is calling for support from the community to stop the theft of life saving equipment along the borough’s rivers and coastline.

Council bought fifty replacement throw lines in February of this year, in which six where used to replace lines due to wear and tear. The remaining forty four throw lines have been used to replace stolen or deliberately damaged beyond repair lines in various locations.

Along the section of the River Bann from the Old Bridge to the Cutts at Castleroe a total of twenty five throw lines were used to replace stolen or damaged lines. It’s a recurring problem, having suffered similar problems in the area last year.

The remainder of the lines have replaced throw lines in coastal areas or harbours within the borough.

Throw lines consist of a red and yellow weatherproof bag containing approximately 25m of lightweight floating rope.

A well-deployed throw line can provide assistance to a victim in the water quicker than any other immediate response. It also has the added advantage of not requiring the rescuer to put themselves at risk by entering the water. Each unit has a life span of five years.

Council say that the cost of replacing throw lines has substantially increased, as has the number of being replaced.

The Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor George Duddy appealed: “The damage or theft of throw lines has been a problem for a considerable time, however, these incidents have recently been occurring more often, resulting in a high risk to the safety of those in the area.

“What the public do not release is that this is a criminal office to tamper, damage or steal lifesaving equipment. Council has a statutory duty to provide this important item. Therefore, due to the substantial number of theft and damage, Council is now considering fitting CCTV cameras to monitor these areas for antisocial behaviour with the possibility of taking forward for prosecution.

“These throw lines are strategically placed along riverbanks and coastal areas for use in the case of an emergency. A missing or damaged throw line jeopardises the chance of a successful rescue and puts people’s lives at risk.

“They are in place as essential safety equipment, the mindless removal or destruction of them is unacceptable and cannot continue.

“As well as the life threatening thefts and destructions of the throw lines, there is a significant cost of replacement to the ratepayer being that the cost for Council to replace the fifty throw lines was approximately £1,500.

“I appeal to any members of the public who witness such irresponsible behaviour to report it to the local Police Service and Coleraine Borough Council immediately. This is a criminal offence and Council will continue to stress the importance of this safety equipment remaining available for emergencies in the Borough.”

Gordon Munro, HM Coastguard expressing his concern over the number of throw lines which have gone missing stated, “Vandalism of Coastal and River Rescue Equipment seems to be an upcoming trend, by damaging or removing rescue equipment placed to save lives. Persons who do this do not consider the consequences of their actions and how it could affect the lives of others.

“Rescue equipment is put in place by Coleraine Borough Council to assist in the prevention of drowning. “Due to the increase in tombstoning, which is appears to be another trend particularly at Portstewart Harbour and the piers, cliffs, rocks and other structures into the sea which can be very dangerous.

“What was a deep pool at lunchtime might be a shallow puddle by teatime due to tidal conditions and you do not know what other hazards might be under the surface. If you want to jump from height into water, I would advise joining a coasteering trip with a reputable adventure centre

“Again, I wish to stress that these throw lines are essential when people get into difficulty in the water. We wish to stop ‘tombstoning’ and ensure that those using the scenic north coast, do so safely and responsibly. In the past six years there have been sixteen deaths and fifty serious injuries caused by tombstoning”.

To report a missing throw line, contact Coleraine Borough Council on 028 7034 7034 and the local Police Service Northern Ireland office in Coleraine.