‘Keep your children out of the water’

Warning signs at Denford Lock, where two boys were rescued last weekend

Warning signs at Denford Lock, where two boys were rescued last weekend

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The father of a teenager who drowned while swimming with friends in the River Nene almost a year ago says parents should speak to their children about the dangers as the summer holidays near.

Gabriel McCullagh’s son Daniel died on July 24 last year after he drowned while swimming with friends near Woodford Locks.

Gabriel McCullagh with his sons Jack, left, and Daniel

Gabriel McCullagh with his sons Jack, left, and Daniel

Last Sunday, less than a year after Daniel’s death, two 12-year-old children had to be rescued from the water near Denford Lock, less than a mile from where Daniel drowned.

They had got into difficulty while swimming.

Mr McCullagh said he was “not surprised, but saddened” to hear children were still swimming in the River Nene despite what happened to Daniel – and he is urging parents to speak to their children as the combination of warm weather and the school summer holiday approaches.

He said: “Adults know the dangers but we don’t think the same way when we are children.

Denford Lock

Denford Lock

“Daniel broke up for the six-week school holidays on Friday and on the following Tuesday he had his accident.

“I would say to parents who have a child who they believe may try to swim in rivers over the holidays, whether they are led by peer pressure or the bravado of others, then please speak to them.

“Schools are breaking up very soon and they don’t want to be in the situation I was.”

On Sunday police, fire crews and paramedics were called to the river near Denford at about 4pm after reports that two 12-year-olds were struggling in the water.

The boy and girl were both taken to hospital as a precaution – although neither needed treatment.

Mr McCullagh said since last year he had lobbied the Environment Agency to improve safety at Woodford Lock, which is a common spot for swimming.

As a result, the Environment Agency has replaced a lifebelt which was missing from the lock.

However, Mr McCullagh said he also wants the owners of the old railway bridge near the lock to install a wire mesh over the top of the structure – which would prevent people from being able to jump into the water from there.

He says a similar method has been used at a bridge further up the River Nene.

Police echoed Mr McCullagh’s safety message.

A spokesman for the county force said: “Parents should advise their children about the dangers of swimming in open water.

“Children can often be tempted to swim or jump into lakes, canals or rivers. There are many hidden dangers such as fast flowing water and debris.”

Sgt Andy Maher from East Northants central safer community team added: “PCSOs will be visiting beauty spots, waterways and locks during the summer months as part of their daily patrols.

“They will be keeping an eye on lifebelts and will notify any missing or damaged items to the Environment Agency.

“We often find these items have been removed or vandalised. If anyone sees anyone tampering with lifebuoys, I would urge them to call the police on 101 immediately.”


In the year since Daniel McCullagh’s death at Woodford Lock, the Environment Agency has replaced a lifebelt which was missing from the side of the river when the teenager drowned.

East Northamptonshire Council owns the bridge which Daniel was jumping from when he drowned last year.

The council says it is arranging to meet with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in August to discuss safety.

A spokesman for the council said: “The outcomes of this meeting will help educate people about how to stay safe along the river.”