Three warned over ‘shambolic’ river training exercise

INCIDENT ... North Shields Fish Quay.
INCIDENT ... North Shields Fish Quay.

THREE organisations have been given written warnings over a “shambolic” training exercise on the Tyne.

A mock rescue was carried out by three groups preparing for this year’s Newcastle Triathlon.

The event, held last month, was forced to switch venue to Ashington in Northumberland because of concerns sparked by its preparations.

Its controversial training exercise saw swimmers and rescue staff stray into shipping lanes, forcing vessels to take evasive action.

It took place near North Shields Fish Quay, and the Port of Tyne Authority, the body responsible for the safety of the river, issued a formal warning to the three organisations concerned.

That came after it carried out an investigation into the incident along with police.

No legal action is to be taken, however.

A Port of Tyne spokesman said: “The unauthorised exercise in June was held to support the planned VO2 Max Newcastle Triathlon and involved approximately 12 swimmers, three rescue boats and 12 kayaks.

“The exercise took place near North Shields Fish Quay and involved a representative of the events company VO2 Max Racing Events, of North Shields, the organiser of the Newcastle Triathlon, and two representatives of voluntary organisations, Blyth Kayak Club and Red Seal, the maritime rescue youth training charity.

“The CCTV coverage showed that the organisation of the exercise was shambolic, with insufficient controls in place. This put the participants and other river users in danger and could have caused serious injury or loss of life.

“The inadvisable location in a narrow part of the river, in an area with dangerous currents, was extremely hazardous.

“The timing of the exercise also meant a large number of vessels were likely to pass very close by.

“Repeated breaches of safety by-laws were recorded on the CCTV coverage.

“The Port of Tyne decided that the test rescue exercise was well intentioned, and it would not be in the public interest to prosecute either the individual swimmers or representatives of the three organisations involved.

“Four individuals from the three organisations have been given written advice in relation to the safety breaches and to any future river activities they may be involved in.”

The port authority added that the three organisations involved were jointly responsible for obtaining legal permission for the rescue exercise, but none did so.

Twitter: @danielprince18