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LGA: 'Tombstoning' youngsters could be leaping to their deaths, councils and fire chiefs warn

Reckless young thrill-seekers leaping from 60-foot high harbour walls and bridges into water are dicing with death or serious disability after a surge in the dangerous activity during the summer holidays, councils are warning.

Young people, some fuelled by drink, are risking their lives ‘tombstoning' – jumping or diving from a height into water unsupervised – into the sea and canals.

Latest figures show that tombstoning has led to an average of two deaths a year over the past 10 years. An 11-year-old boy died last month after reportedly tombstoning from a bridge into a canal in Rotheram.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils and all 48 fire and rescue authorities, is calling on the Government to extend an awareness raising campaign by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on the dangers of jumping into water and cold water shock - which can lead to drowning – to schools nationwide.

It is calling for the campaign, currently targeting at men aged 18-29, to be used in schools and made more relevant to children and young people who can be more easily influenced to play games of dare.

Between 2005 and 2015 the Coastguard dealt with more than 200 incidents of tombstoning, with 83 injuries and 20 deaths.

Dangers include shallow water, hidden rocks, cold water shock - which can make it hard to swim and trigger an involuntary gasp reflex that can cause victims to swallow water and drown - and strong currents and changing tides which can rapidly sweep people away.

Councils have been alerted to a resurgence in tombstoning during the recent warm weather and are warning about the dangerous activity, as well as cold water shock and the dangers of swimming in the sea and open water.

Five people died after being pulled from the sea at Camber Sands, East Sussex, on Wednesday 24 August - the hottest day (33.9C) of the year so far. A 19-year-old boy drowned and two people were taken to hospital after getting into difficulty swimming in the sea at Camber Sands last month.

Councils which have issued safety warnings about tombstoning as temperatures rise again:

Cornwall Council has issued a warning after receiving reports of young people in Bude, St Ives, Newquay and Portwreath leaping from road bridges, locks and closed-off piers. The council says the dangers are being compounded by young people drinking alcohol.

The Safe Durham Partnership, which includes Durham County Council, is running a summer campaign on cold water shock. Dying to be Cool highlights the death of a 14-year-old boy who suffered a "shock reaction" after jumping into the River Wear in July 2015. A 16-year-old boy also died in June 2016 after getting into difficulty swimming at a Durham beauty spot beneath a 65-foot waterfall. The campaign has been delivered through social media – with its video reaching over 250,000 people, visits to schools and water safety sessions.

Boston Borough Council in Lincolnshire has been alerted to several instances of tombstoning and has issued a warning after a video was posted on social media of two youngsters launching themselves off a bridge and into the water in just their underwear.

Brighton and Hove City Council has issued a safety warning after people were seen flinging themselves off Brighton beach jetty into the sea.

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