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Vandals continue to target life-saving riverside equipment

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Vandals continue to target life-saving riverside equipment thumbnailA damaged throw-line at Upper Main Street.

VANDALS are continuing to target the town's riverside equipment despite repeated appeals to the public to leave the life-saving devices alone.

In recent months, local rescue services have reported a surge in incidents of vandalism to throw-lines and lifebelts.

Mourne River Search and Rescue (MRSAR) and Strabane Community Rescue both say the equipment is being routinely targeted and damaged - sometimes beyond use.

Lifebelts are also regularly being thrown into the river with rescue service volunteers then required to put their own lives at risk in a bid to retrieve the items.

Earlier this month, MRSAR volunteers discovered that not only was a lifebelt removed from its holding behind SuperValu again but that the bracket to hold the ring had been cut off the wall. Despite efforts to locate the lifebelt during training, there was no sign of it.

Then, on Sunday, volunteers found that two pieces of equipment had been damaged along the river front stretching along the River Mourne walkway.

The rescue group says that despited repeated appeals on its social media page and via this newspaper the message is still not getting through to the culprits of the dangers of tampering with the equipment.

It is also warning that with the onset of the summer months and potentially good weather young people are likely to be congregating close to waterways more often. It is urging people to be mindful of their safety.

Taking to its Facebook page, MRSAR posted a picture of a damaged throwline at Upper Main Street and another of the missing bracket.

A spokesperson said: "On a walk from the new bypass bridge up to where the riverside path ends below Strabane Cemetery it was discovered that two of five pieces of life-saving equipment has been vandalised.

"The bracket was deliberately cut off the wall. We keep flagging this issue in the hope that you will all remain vigilant and hopefully those responsible will be identified soon."

Renewing the appeal for an end to the vandalism, the spokesperson added: "We are asking those responsible to please stop interfering with this vital life-saving equipment."

The public have also been urged not to put themselves in harms way to attempt to retrieve any of the devices themselves if they come across them but to contact the group.

The vandalism has drawn widespread condemnation on the group's social media site. Derry and Strabane Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) remarked: "Someone must have seen this. Report to Crimestoppers and/or PSNI. MRSAR are a great service and this is a distraction as well as a very dangerous incident."

The PSNI, for its part, has reiterated that it takes the eliberate interference with life-saving devices seriously and has urged people to refrain from damaging the equipment.

Anyone who sees others tampering or in possession of a throw-line/lifebelt is asked to report it immediately to the PSNI. Information can be passed on via the 101 non-emergency number or to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 55 111

MRSAR has urged anyone with information regarding any of the vandalism to report it to the authorities.

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