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West Bridgford
Thursday, 6 May 2021

Mum’s warning after 11-year-old girls rescued from frozen River Trent

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A mum whose son drowned after heroically saving a friend and while trying to save another has again joined forces with Nottinghamshire Police to warn of the dangers of entering open water.

Nicola Jenkins spoke of her shock and the painful memories which came back to her after hearing about the dramatic rescue of two 11-year-old girls on Saturday after they had walked over a frozen part of the River Trent and becoming trapped.

One of the girls fell through the ice into the freezing water before the alarm was raised by a passer-by. The other made it to an island but was stranded with no way back over the broken ice.

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Drone footage capturing the dramatic moment one of the girls was brought to safety has been released by Nottinghamshire Police in a bid to highlight the dangers of entering the River Trent, especially when it is icy.

The incident was just a few hundred metres away from the area where 12-year-old Owen Jenkins tragically died after being dragged under by a strong current while trying to rescue two friends who had got into difficulty in the water at Beeston Weir in July 2017.

After rescuing one friend, who’d got into difficulties, Owen returned to the water to rescue another friend but the current was too strong and it dragged him under. Sadly he didn’t resurface. Owen gave his life to save another and died a hero.

Nicola said: “When I heard what had happened to these girls my heart dropped and I just thought God I hope they’re okay. It took me straight back to what happened with Owen.

“Children think they’re safe walking out on ice and just don’t see the danger of it.

“These open water areas do not have thick enough ice to withstand your weight, especially as the water gets deeper. You are likely to fall through the ice into freezing water, become stranded and suffer cold water shock rapidly.

“That’s where your body goes into an automatic shock response so your heart beats faster and you start gasping for air.

“In winter months the temperature of the water in the shallows can reach around one degree Celsius and as it gets deeper it can get even colder.

“Even in the summer, when the water temperature can reach between 14 degrees Celsius and slightly warmer, these temperatures can cause cold water shock.

“I was so pleased that this incident had a happy outcome. The girls were very lucky that someone spotted them.

“I’m urging parents to speak to their children about the dangers of open water and frozen open water.

“Please stick to paths and walkways, do not stand on the ice and stay away from frozen open water.”

Nicola, who founded the Open Water Education Network (OWEN) water safety programme in Owen’s memory, also urged people to download the free What3Words app which it uses and which can pinpoint a location for emergency services to find people when they get stranded.

Nottinghamshire Police is also among the emergency services which uses the app which has divided the globe into three metre by three metre squares and given each one a unique three word address. It means everywhere can be located with just three words.

A joint rescue operation was launched on Saturday by Nottinghamshire Police, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service and East Midlands Ambulance Service to rescue the girls and bring them to safety after the incident was reported, near to St Mary’s Church, Holgate, at around 4.45pm.

Fire crews from West Bridgford, Highfields, London Road and Newark Fire Station attended the water rescue.

The first girl was able to be supported in walking out the water as she was closer to the edge, however to rescue the second girl, crews had to use an inflatable piece of equipment called a pathway to bring her safely back across the frozen water. The girls – who were unharmed but extremely cold – were then left in the care of the ambulance service.

Inspector James Walker, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “The best advice is to avoid open water, be it frozen or not, and don’t put yourself at risk.

“It’s impossible to tell how thick ice is at a glance, and water temperatures beneath broken ice can quickly make someone hypothermic.

“Going onto frozen water is extremely dangerous and the girls are extremely lucky to have been unharmed, particularly as one of them had fallen into the water through the ice.

“Luckily a passer-by saw them in difficulty and called the emergency services. If it hadn’t been for this person raising the alarm there could have been tragic consequences. It was getting dark at the time and was freezing cold.

“They are incredibly lucky this person saw them and was able to call the police, fire and ambulance service colleagues who got there quickly to rescue them.

“This happened very close to where another tragedy happened just over three years ago. It is really important that people stay away from the river as we don’t want other families to have to go through what Owen’s family and friends did.”

For more information about the What3Words app head here:

For more information about the Open Water Education Network (OWEN) visit their new website here or Facebook page here.

To watch our open water safety video filmed with Nicola head here.

PHOTO: Nicola Jenkins with some of the tributes left in her son’s memory at the Beeston Weir site last summer CREDIT: Nottinghamshire Police