Wales

Barmouth: Gwynedd beach safety review after Jonathan Stevens death

Jonathan Stevens Image copyright Kim Stevens
Image caption Kim Stevens said her brother Jonathan had "died a hero"

Safety measures at Gwynedd beaches are to be reviewed after a father died trying to save his children from drowning.

Father-of-seven Jonathan Stevens from Telford, Shropshire, died after getting caught in a rip current off Barmouth beach on Sunday.

Concerns have been raised for a number of years about a lack of lifeguards.

But Gwynedd council said they could not monitor miles of coastline and would not "improve safety that much".

Mr Stevens, 36, had been on a day trip with his family when the accident happened on Sunday.

He was rescued by beach wardens and taken by helicopter to Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, but died later in hospital.

His sister Kim Stevens said he "died a hero for saving his kids' lives".

'A tragedy we had feared'

Council leader Dyfrig Siencyn said a tragedy like this was "always something we fear" and safety at the county's beaches would be reviewed to try and improve safety "as far as we can".

He told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast the county's beaches had been "inundated" since lockdown restrictions were eased, and many people were not aware of the dangers of the water.

"I think there is an element here that we need to get our message right. These seas can be very attractive, they can look calm, but they are quite dangerous places," he said.

Image caption Mr Stevens had been on a day trip to Barmouth, his sister said

Six beach wardens had been on duty at Barmouth beach and had gone into the water and rescued two of the children, and administered CPR to Mr Stevens.

Mr Siencyn said while the council did not employ lifeguards, the beach wardens, who are not trained to rescue people from the water, were doing their best "under difficult circumstances".

He said previous discussions with the RNLI, who provide lifeguards, had concluded they would "not necessarily improve the safety of the beach".

"They can only look after about 200 metres of beach apparently, and Barmouth is miles long. We have over 100 miles of beaches in Gwynedd," he said.

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Media captionRNLI volunteer Arwel Jones said he brought two teenagers and man out of the water in July

In recent weeks a number of people have been rescued from waters off the Gwynedd coast.

Windsurfers helped rescue four people who needed hospital treatment after getting into difficulty in Aberdyfi in July.

Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Liz Saville Roberts said any review needed to make sure the county's beaches were as "safe as they possibly can be for the rest of summer" and for the future.

"Every year there seems to be some terrible tragedy somewhere down in south Gwynedd," she said.

She called for talks to discuss how lifeguards could be funded in tourist hotspots.

Warning signs

Nick Aitken, an instructor with the Swim Safe training scheme from nearby Tywyn, said if the sea looked dangerous people should "stay away".

Owain Pritchard, of Barmouth Town Council, said the community was trying to come to terms with the tragedy.

"Some of our community were the first to respond to that incident yesterday, but as you can see sometimes people are just walking past the warning signs," he said.

"Further education can only be a good thing with regards to the dangers of venturing out."

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