Man who disappeared while swimming at beauty spot ‘may have died while cooling off in heat wave’

July 12, 2013 | by | 0 Comments

A man who drowned while swimming in a river at a picturesque beauty spot may have become the latest victim of the deadly summer heatwave.

Damian Southall, 20, disappeared below the waters on Thursday afternoon while horrified friends looked on.

Pals frantically dived under the 15ft (4m) deep waters to look to Damian- but he was nowhere to be seen.

Emergency diving teams and friends and family search for a man who disappeared while swimming in the River Severn in Bridgnorth, Shropshire last night

Emergency diving teams and friends and family search for a man who disappeared while swimming in the River Severn in Bridgnorth, Shropshire last night

The lifeless body of Damian was pulled from the river at around 2.10pm this afternoon.

One witness at the scene, who did not want to be named, said: “He was playing with his friends and just mucking around in the water really.

“Everybody was laughing and having a good time, and all of a sudden he was gone. Just like that.

“His friends were looking for him – they were hysterical.

“To go from the sound of people laughing and enjoying the summer weather to those screams of horror is something I never want to hear again.”

Local resident Norman Poulter, 64, said: “Kids are always messing around by the river there, it is a very popular spot.

“There were loads of people around and playing in the river yesterday. Later in the afternoon I saw a lot of police activity and I knew then that something had happened down there.

A diver searches the river for the man who may have drowned while cooling off

A diver searches the river for the man who may have drowned while cooling off

“There was a lot of commotion, and people were in tears. It was heartbreaking to see.”

Tributes began pouring into social networking sites – even though Damian’s body has not yet been found.

Carla Heather W wrote: “Actually can’t believe it! Hope you are found soon Damian, so you can rest in peace!! Xxx thoughts are with your family and friends! Xxx”

Paige Maher added: “Rip damian. Such a great friend we deffo had our ups and downs.

“I cant believe whats happened it just doesnt seem real.

“Had loads of memories from when we was lil kids. Just cant believe it. Gone but never forgotton. In the arms of the angels. Love you. Sleep tight. Rip xxxx.”

While another wellwisher added: “To young for anyone to go and will be missed by everyone stay strong his family and his friends. R.I.P.”

Euan Ralph told how he saw Damian getting into difficulties.

He posted: “We didn’t know him but we had been with him for most of the day.

“Me and my friends jumped in after him but there was nothing we could do.

“Rest in peace mate it was a pleasure to even know you for a couple of hours.”

Speaking at the scene, Superintendent James Tozer, from West Mercia Police, said: “We can confirm a member of our dive team recovered a body at around 2:10 this afternoon.

“The family have asked us to confirm it is the body of 20-year-old Damian Southall, a beloved son.

“This is a tragic occurrence, where the family are distraught and very emotional. Our job is to make sure it never happens again.

“This looks an ideal spot, but the water is extremely dangerous. We can’t say if Damian was swimming with anyone at the time, or how exactly he drowned.

“The dive team have had a tough job today, with the water being very murky.

“All in all it took about an hour and a half to recover the body.”

Safety campaigner Victoria Royce Williams, 37, from the Midlands Storm Chasers, urged people not to go swimming in rivers.

She said: “We bolted into action when we heard about a young man who died in a quarry.

“As the weather has got hotter and hotter, hospitals are receiving more and more patients.

“We want to make it clear to people that no matter how hot it is, don’t swim in rivers.

“The river looks nice, but it is deadly.

“There should be signs up, and radio adverts so that it is etched into the public consciousness.”

Earlier an underwater dive team joined the search and focused their efforts on a 100m (30m)stretch of water close to Bridgnorth Rowing Club.

Rescue teams rushed to the scene in Bridgnorth, Shrops., at around 5.30pm following reports the swimmer had got into difficulties.

Emergency services scoured the river and resumed their search this morning.

Local residents said the picturesque spot was popular with swimmers but the deep waters and strong currents made it dangerous for those taking a dip.

One member of the Bridgnorth Rowing Club, near to where the man was last seen, said they urged a group of teenagers, including the missing swimmer, not to go in the waters.

He said: “We get people coming to swim there a lot, and this isn’t the first time they have gone missing.

“The rowing club has a jetty running out into the river so we can get the boats into the water and local teenagers like to come and swim in the river sometimes.

“I don’t know who the missing lad is, but he was part of a group of four teenagers from Womborne who came to swim.

“I think he was about 18 or so, we asked them not to go in the water, because it is very deep there and the current is strong, but they went in anyway.

“We were down there until about 10 o’clock last night trying to help with the rescue, but there wasn’t a lot we could do really.

“It’s best to leave it to the emergency services.

“The boys didn’t have anything to do with the club, their families were all at the scene yesterday watching the attempts to find him.

“They looked in bits. It must be horrible for them.”

A spokesperson for West Midlands Ambulance Service confirmed they were called to the scene to aid with the rescue efforts.

He said: “We were involved in the search for a man who was reportedly seen in difficulty in the River Severn in Bridgnorth.

“The service was called shortly before 5.30pm today to the river near the town’s rowing club.

“Bridgnorth’s advanced Community Paramedic attended in a rapid response vehicle along with a volunteer Community First Responder from the town, an ambulance crew, a paramedic Area Support Officer in a rapid response vehicle, a senior paramedic officer and the Hazardous Area Response Team.

“Other emergency and rescue services also attended.

“Searches of the river were conducted throughout the evening until there was no daylight left, at which point the search was ended.”

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