As villagers raise money for a lifebelt at the spot where a 15-year-old boy died, the Telegraph can reveal almost half the lifebelts along the River Nene are missing.
Woodford residents have already collected more than enough to replace the missing lifebelt at the lock near the village where Daniel McCullagh died last Tuesday.
But, following national policy, the Environment Agency has not replaced 17 out of 38 lifebelts along the river between Peterborough and Northampton after vandals stole or burned them multiple times.
Tony Blyth, who dived in to try to save Daniel and has started the collection at his pub, the Duke’s Arms in Woodford.
He said: “I find this answer that the lifebelt stations have been vandalised so lame.
“What is the greater crime, the vandalism or not replacing them?”
People have already donated £600, which is the cost of a new lifebelt and housing at the lock where Daniel entered the water.
A village carpenter is willing to build the housing and Mr Blyth, 51, said they would go ahead with the lifebelt and possibly another memorial if Daniel’s family wanted.
The Environment Agency warned if there is an expectation that there will be lifebelts at a site people come to rely on it and are unprepared when it is missing.