Dale Alexander's friend recalls river tragedy following water warnings

Brendan Winters said children should respect their rivers and lakes. Image copyright Kenneth Allen
Image caption Brendan Winters said children should respect their rivers and lakes

A close friend of a man who drowned in a County Tyrone river has said he wants to raise awareness of the dangers of water following recent warnings.

Dale Alexander, 21, died in June 2009 while swimming with friends in the River Mourne at Sion Mills.

Northern Ireland Water and the Quarry Products Association have asked people to stay away from areas that are not usually open to the public.

They said that despite warm weather, the water can be bitterly cold.

Brendan Winters, chairman of Strabane Lifford anglers, said his childhood friend had fallen victim to the cold temperatures despite being an experienced swimmer.

"Dale had swam across the river got out of the water and spoke to people on the far side. As he was swimming back his body went into shock," Brendan said.

"From reports, his body went into shock as a result of his core temperature dropping on the first swim over the river.

"On that day, there were life ropes and rings absent from where there were positioned along the river and possibly that could have helped save his life.

"Dale is never far from my thoughts. I wouldn't wish that on any other family or for anyone else to have to lose a friend like that."

"Very dangerous"

Brendan said Dale, whose wife was pregnant at the time, had spent his youth swimming in the river and was an experienced angler.

"He spent all his youth here, but it just goes to show you that regardless of how well you think you know water, it's really dangerous. You should never become complacent.

"Sadly, Dale had two young sons born after he drowned. It's terrible to think they never saw their father," he said.

Michael Bergin of NI Water, said people need to take precautions.

"Understandably, a reservoir can look like the perfect place to cool down, and while it may look safe, it can be very dangerous," he said.

"You may swim well in a warm indoor pool, but that does not mean that you will be able to swim in cold water."

A 2010 inquest into Mr Alexander's death heard that his life could have been saved had life-saving equipment been in place.

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