Family rescue from Ripon river prompts warning

31 July 2013

On 28 July 2013, emergency services were called to the river Ure at Hackfall woods near Grewelthorpe, Ripon.

The fire service attended with colleagues from the ambulance service and police. A woman and her two children had become trapped in fast flowing water that had risen quickly and caught the family unaware, they had managed to get onto a tree in the middle of the river where they became stranded by the rapidly rising waters.

Specialist water rescue crews attended from Ripon and Richmond along with a crew from Masham and a water rescue Officer, they secured the scene and put in place upstream and downstream safety.

Fire-PumpFire service requested support from RAF Sea King in order to winch the 3 stranded females safely, whilst the water rescue teams kept the scene safe.

All the emergency services worked in conjunction with the RAF to ensure the incident was a success, it could however have been a different story and should act as a warning to the dangers of rising river levels following a period of prolonged and heavy rainfall.

The fire service have reminded the public that whilst the river may look benign it can quickly change, in this instance the preceding rainfall from the night before caused a rapid rise in the river level in a very short period of time.

A fire service spokesperson said:

The water level was quite low when the individuals entered the water, but the heavy rainfall from the previous day meant that the water levels were higher upstream. The high levels of water moved downstream and this is why the individuals got into difficulty.

As this incident shows open water may look inviting but the situation can quickly change.

Open water can also contain many hidden dangers;

Temperature shock

Even during warm weather, temperatures in open waters are dangerously low. This can affect even strong swimmers, causing loss of strength and muscle coordination. Prolonged exposure to cold can cause hypothermia, inducing mental confusion and irrational behaviour.

Submerged dangers

Murky or fast-flowing water can conceal hazards such as rocks or discarded rubbish. Jumping in can be deadly.


Underwater plants can wrap around bathers, leading to breathing difficulties and panic.

Water currents

Just 15cm of fast flowing water can knock an adult off their feet. Deeper water with fast currents is extremely hazardous.

Waterborne diseases

Open water used by animals can carry diseases such as Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease), which has flu-like symptoms and can be fatal.

If you need to cool down in hot weather we would always advise that you visit your local swimming pool or lifeguard patrolled beaches. If you go walking near to rivers/streams you should take into account what the weather has been like over preceding days.

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