Report: 420 Water-Related Deaths in UK in 2010

The highest number of fatalities—52 percent—happened in inland waters such as rivers, canals, lakes, lochs, reservoirs, and ponds.

There were 420 water-related deaths from accidents or natural causes in the United Kingdom in 2010, according to a report published recently by the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF).

The report, which used data from NWSF’s Water Incident Database (WAID), reveals that, as in previous years, the highest number of fatalities—217 (52 percent)—happened in inland waters such as rivers, canals, lakes, lochs, reservoirs, and ponds. Nearly a quarter of fatalities—94 (22 percent)—happened at the coast or in a harbor, dock, marina, or port, while an additional 73 deaths (17 percent) happened out at sea. Twenty-four fatalities were the result of incidents in baths (such as hot-tubs), six in swimming pools, and six in areas that are not usually watercourses, such as flooded areas.

Children and young people aged 1-19 accounted for 57 of the deaths, of whom 19 were under 10 years old.

Of the 420 fatalities, 58 involved someone who had been walking or running and then entered the water, perhaps because they fell in. Thirty-one deaths involved someone who had been swimming at the time of the incident. Thirty-three cases involved someone who had been in a manually powered boat, 31 involved commercial water activities, and 30 involved angling. Twenty of the deaths were related to sub aqua diving.

Although fatalities were spread across every day of the week and every month of the year, Saturday was the most common day and April and June the most common months for fatalities to occur.

WAID was developed by NWSF to enable greater detail and volume in the collection of data on fatal and non-fatal drowning, other water-related deaths and injuries, and near misses. It collects incident data from a wide range of sources including emergency services, sports governing bodies, coastguard, rescue services, coroners’ courts, and press reports.

Peter Cornall, head of leisure safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and a member of NWSF, said, “Water safety messages are traditionally issued to coincide with certain types of weather, typically very cold spells, when waterways freeze over, and also when there are very warm spells, which are often associated with peaks in accidental drownings, as in 2010. However, the spread of fatal incidents throughout the year really highlights how important it is for all those involved in water safety to press on with prevention no matter what the season.”

The 2010 figures and the development of WAID will be discussed at the National Water Safety Seminar in Birmingham on April 26.

Visit for more information about the report.

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