NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Aberdeen beach safety measures unchanged after deaths

Lucas and Julie Walker
Image caption Julie Walker and her son Lucas died at Aberdeen beach last year

Safety measures at Aberdeen beach remain unchanged, seven months after a mother and her son drowned.

A safety group has been set up to look at the provision of safety equipment and lifeguard cover.

Julie Walker, 37, and Lucas, six, died despite the frantic efforts of members of the public and emergency services to save them.

A review was ordered following the tragedy and that has led to the setting up of the Aberdeen Water Safety Group.

It involves eight different agencies, including the RNLI, Aberdeen City Council, UK Coastguard and Police Scotland.

'Keep safe'

Aberdeen Water Safety Group will consider assessments of safety equipment at the beach and also seek to raise awareness about the potential dangers of the sea and also rivers.

Helen Clark, Royal Life Saving Society UK senior volunteer and vice chairwoman of the water safety group, told BBC Scotland: "There isn't any change in the provision of equipment because at the moment the risk assessment process is being carried out.

"The RNLI have looked at the initial audit of equipment and that has been fed back to Aberdeen City Council.

"The next stage is the full risk assessment which is ongoing currently."

Image caption Flowers left at the scene of the deaths on Aberdeen beach last year

Ms Clark said improving water safety was not just about the provision of equipment but education.

She said: "It is about teaching young people, teaching our parents, how to keep safe around water."

Volunteers from Aberdeen Surf Life Saving Club will be operating again over the summer as they have done previously.

But Ms Clark said because this service relied on volunteers, and also due to the large size of Aberdeen beach, cover could not be provided at all times in all areas.

She said red and yellow flags were flown when the club was operating and the flags also marked the area it was providing lifesaving cover for.

'Tragic events'

Aberdeen Water Safety Group, which met for the first time eight weeks ago, is also working on a water safety policy for Aberdeen City Council for the beach and also rivers in its area.

Members of the group have already agreed that all lifebelt equipment on land owned by the local authority should be inspected weekly and inspections recorded.

Image caption Last August's incident came during a busy day at the beach

New signage has also been added to equipment which gives details of who to contact should the lifebelt be missing or vandalised.

Insp Carron McKellar, of Police Scotland's Seaton community policing team, said: "Given the tragic events of last year where a mother and child lost their loves in the water at Aberdeen beach, the group are focused on ensuring the water safety message gets out to the public, in particular those who use the beach.

"Public safety is paramount and Police Scotland is committed to working with partners to ensure we achieve this."

It was a busy Saturday afternoon at Aberdeen beach last August when Ms Walker and Lucas drowned. Ms Walker had gone into the sea to try to save her son.

Lucas' 13-year-old brother, Samuel, and two other people who tried to help the family were taken to hospital.

The Aberdeen Water Safety Group includes the RNLI (including Aberdeen Lifeboat Station), Aberdeen City Council, HM Coastguard, Royal Life Saving Society UK, Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, Police Scotland, Surf Lifesaving Great Britain (including Aberdeen Surf Life Saving Club), and Sport Aberdeen.

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