Every year someone loses their life rescuing pets off the ice or when they get into fast running water. Every parents nightmare is for a child not to return home. Accidents happen and canals and rivers are dangerous places to be at this and any time of year.
Yesterday, two teenagers lost their lives after falling into a canal. The 17-year-old girl and 18-year-old boy were pulled from the water in Smethwick, West Midlands, by emergency services but both died later in hospital. I don't know anything of the tragic circumstances, but I know that there will be families and friends in shock at the deaths. Our thoughts are with their family and friends.
Distraught families often call for more areas of canals and rivers to be fenced in. But it is not possible to "nanny" society to this level. There is no single cure or fix to the problem of youngsters taking risks on the water or anywhere else. Every year young people lose their lives in tragic circumstances around our lakes, canals and rivers. The only remedy is to try to drive home safety around water into our children in their formative years.
Whilst we were on our cruise this summer I noted a few places where rescue equipment had been vandalised. Often places with fences have been allowed to fall into disrepair. There are many personal safety challenges to us as boaters which we try and prepare ourselves for. We are used to working around locks and stretches of towpath that are reaching the end of their working lives. We are much more aware of the dangers than the youngsters we see playing alongside the canals and rivers.
Yet if we cast our minds back to when we were youngsters. We took risks without a second thought. Our elders were just "old farts" that thought they knew it all. We were young, full of energy and daring and we certainly felt that we were immortal. I lost friends in accidents and I sometimes feel that we have been lucky in life. Yet as a young man I spent 18 months in hospital recovering from the aftermath of an serious accident. I recovered to go on and lead a full active life, however not everyone gets a second chance like me.