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Vandals continue to target life-saving riverside safety equipment

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Vandals continue to target life-saving riverside safety equipment thumbnailBarry Monaghan from Mourne River Search and Rescue Service (MRSAR) shows one of six missing life-rings from its holding at Moorlough.

LOCAL rescue organisations say vandals are continuing to target and damage riverside safety equipment across the district despite repeated appeals for the life-saving devices to be left alone.

In recent months, local rescue services have reported a surge in incidents of vandalism to throw-lines and life-rings and it's a problem, they say, which is showing no sign of abating.

Both Mourne River Search and Rescue (MRSAR) and Strabane Community Rescue regularly take to their social media pages to issue similar warnings.

The rescue groups say that despite repeated appeals on their respective pages and via this newspaper the message is still not getting through to the culprits of the dangers of tampering with the equipment.

Last week, throw-lines were damaged along the riverwalk on the River Mourne leading a local community worker to issue an impassioned appeal for an end to the destruction.

Andy Patton had warned that the repeated vandalism could lead to tragic consequences and the loss of life. He urged local people across the district to keep a watchful eye and report any vandalism to the PSNI.

He also went on radio to discuss the matter, adding: "Can we all be good citizens and report any vandals that are damaging these life-saving devices? It could well be that a relative of your own could need emergency help whilst at the river."

In the most recent posting, MRSAR revealed on Friday that the scenic Moorlough recreational lake has become the latest victim.

After visiting the recreational site, the organisation revealed that of eight rescue throw-lines dotted in strategic positions around the area, only two remain.

A spokesperson said: "Having received a call from a concerned member of the public about life rings around Moorlough a few of our members decided too check it out.

"Out of a total of eight liferings that we had seen only two were intact - the rest were missing!"

The spokesperson stressed the importance of the life-saving equipment in the area of the lough which is frequented regularly by fishermen and families.

He added: "This is very concerning as Moorlough is a dangerous place with unsafe shore lines and is frequently used by anglers and young families."

Meanwhile, fellow rescue group, Community Rescue Service revealed throw-lines are still regularly being thrown into the River Mourne in Strabane with volunteers having to retrieve one last Tuesday afternoon.

"Today (Tuesday), Community Rescue Service Strabane were contacted by a concerned member of the public regarding a piece of life-saving equipment that was seemingly thrown from its holding and into the river.

"Members of the Strabane unit were deployed to retrieve the life-ring from the river," a spokesperson said.

Renewing the appeal for an end to the vandalism, the spokesperson warned: "This is someone's lifeline. This type of vandalism reduces someone's chance of survival. Do you want to be responsible for the delay in help getting to someone you know? Please do not mess with these lifelines!"

Both rescue organisations have reiterated that members of the public must not put themselves in harms way to attempt to retrieve any of the devices themselves if they come across them but to contact them.

The PSNI says that it takes the deliberate 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.

"This equipment is provided to help save lives and aid anyone in difficulty using the river. Police are asking river users young and old to report any criminal damage by contacting ourselves on 101," a spokesperson said.

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