Children as young as eight have been risking their lives playing in a fast-flowing river as Doncaster continues to bask in a summer heatwave.
Police have arranged high-priority visits to schools in Mexborough to warn of the dangers of paddling and swimming to cool off, with temperatures set to reach 26°C today and be even hotter tomorrow.
An area locally known as Pebble Beach has drawn children over the past week, with groups of six to eight at a time, said Police Community Support Officer Annette Flavall.
She has visited Montagu, Highwoods and St John primary schools to warn children of the dangers.
“They’ve been paddling in the shallow area near Pebble Beach where the water is warmer, but it’s close to the rapids and near where the river gets much deeper,” she said.
“I went into school and told the children if I caught them there I would take them home to their parents – but I’ve got no other powers to stop them. I don’t want to have to knock on someone’s door to tell them their child has had to be rescued from the river, or worse.”
PCSO Flavell added: “After I went into the schools I went back to the river and there was no-one there, so it shows the presentations do work.”
Teenagers have also been seen taking a dip in the River Don near Ferryboat Lane, and there is concern someone could get into trouble in the cold water.
The dangers of open water during the hot weather have also been emphasised by Doncaster Council, which says the safest place for a dip is a swimming pool.
Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster, said: “We are in the middle of a warm spell and lots of residents are enjoying the many fine outdoor attractions across the borough.
“I would like to remind everyone, especially young people, of the dangers of open water.
“Even though the weather is warm, lakes, rivers and ponds will still be very cold and even accomplished swimmers can get into difficulty quickly.
“The cold can cause cramps, potentially making people unable to swim and risk drowning. There may also be invisible health hazards such as chemicals, viruses or bacteria in the water.
“Jumping into open water is particularly dangerous as you often cannot tell the depth of water or what is underneath the surface. This could result in serious injuries.
“You should never swim in open water unless you have the correct equipment and are under the supervision of experienced instructors. Taking a trip to a swimming pool is a much safer option.”
So far no emergency incidents have been reported in Doncaster, but a spokesman for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “It can be tempting to cool off in hot weather, but stick to a swimming pool.
“Hundreds of people drown each year in the UK and it’s not unusual for us to be called out to reports of people getting into difficulty by swimming in rivers, lakes or flooded quarries.
“These sorts of places are completely unsuitable for swimming, with a number of hidden dangers.”
A Canals and Rivers Trust spokesman said they had not received reports of children swimming or ‘tombstoning’ in Doncaster canals.
The dangers of open water are:
* The water can be much deeper than you expect
* Rivers, lakes, canals and reservoirs are much colder than you think
* Cold water dramatically affects the ability to swim
* There may be hidden currents which can pull you under the water
* You don’t know what lies beneath, like pieces of rubbish or reeds which can trap or injure you