Two men have died trying to cool off in a lake at a disused quarry in west Norfolk, as warnings were issued up and down the country asking people to stay safe while enjoying the first British heatwave since 2006.
Emergency services were called to Bawsey Pits, near King’s Lynn, after a man was described as getting into difficulties in the water at 4.30pm yesterday. Police said they arrived to discover that a second man was also missing.
RAF search and rescue, a police helicopter, firefighters and paramedics were all involved in looking for the men, and a statement was issued at 11pm saying that both bodies had been found in the water.
Swimming is banned at the beauty spot, which is popular with sunseekers, but many ignore warning signs.
Inquiries are ongoing as to exactly what led to the deaths, which came the day after a quarry in Malvern reopened following two more fatal swimming accidents in the past fortnight.
Justas Juzenas, 22, drowned at Gullet Quarry, a stretch of water near Malvern, Worcestershire, where 17-year-old Russell O'Neill died on Saturday 6 July.
Ten days ago West Mercia Police issued a warning saying: “With the warm weather upon us and the school holidays approaching, we would advise people to think twice about going into local rivers, lakes and canals in order to cool off.”
Yesterday Public Health England called for people to be more aware of the dangers associated with the unseasonably hot weather.
Professor Virginia Murray, head of health protection, said: “This is everybody’s problem. We need to look after everyone and we need everyone to look out for each other.”
The deaths of two soldiers during a training exercise on Saturday drew national focus to how badly things can go wrong in the heat, and on its website the Royal Life Saving Society told people to stay safe and take notice of warning signs when swimming.
The society’s Drowning Prevention campaign ran from 22-30 June this year, and reported that more than 400 people die from accidental drowning every year in the UK, and amongst children it is the third-highest cause of accidental death.
Chief Executive Di Standley said: “These are deaths that could be prevented. They shouldn’t happen. If everyone stopped to think about basic water safety and made small changes to their behaviour, we are sure we could cut down the number of preventable, accidental drowning incidences that happen every year in the UK.”
A spokesman for Sibelco, which runs Bawsey Pits, said: "The firm was deeply saddened to learn of yesterday's tragic events.
"Safety is our prime concern and signs are in place to warn against swimming and diving.
"We will work with the police and other investigating authorities to help establish exactly what took place.
"Until that process has run its course, we can only say further that our thoughts go out to all who have been touched by these deaths."
Norfolk Police Assistant Chief Constable Nick Dean said: "The tragic discoveries of the bodies of these two people came after an extensive search of Bawsey Pits by the emergency services and volunteers.
"On behalf of everyone involved, I would like to offer my condolences to the families of the males who have sadly lost their lives."