A warning has been issued in a desperate bid to stop daredevils who are taking their life in their own hands by participating in the dangerous tombstoning craze.
Action is to be taken to try to stamp out the growing number of thrillseekers who are launching themselves into the water at Warkworth Harbour, in Amble. In recent weeks, there have been reports of people hurling themselves off a large ice container belonging to Warkworth Harbour Commission and jumping in front of boats.
Tombstoning involves leaping or diving from a height into water – often unaware of how deep the water may be and what lies beneath.
The Maritime and Coastgard Agency describes the craze as ‘a high-risk, unregulated activity, undertaken by unsupervised individuals’.
While there have not been any deaths at Amble, there have been at least 20 fatalities since 2005 in the UK alone, with more than 60 people injured. Yet, despite the risks, many people love the adrenaline rush of leaping into the unknown.
Tombstoning is not a new issue at Amble, but a fresh campaign is being launched to try to stop it – especially with the school summer holidays about to begin.
The problem was discussed at Amble Town Council last Thursday evening and representatives from the RNLI, the police and the Northumberland Youth Service have vowed to work together to tackle the issue.
The town council is also supportive and, following the meeting, the Harbour Commission has also agreed to back the campaign.
At last week’s meeting, a Youth Service representative said: “I have seen it with my own eyes – young people, jumping in fully clothed, leaping off the pier and getting up onto the ice plant at the harbour and jumping from there and jumping in front of boats.
“It is risky behaviour and it is an issue. There is a lack of awareness about the dangers and it is one of these things that will take time to prevent, but I am passionate about this and want to do something about it.”
Matt Cairns, who is a crew member for Amble RNLI, as well as community safety officer, was also at the town-council meeting and admitted it is something that the life-saving charity takes seriously.
He said: “Tombstoning is part of the RNLI’s drowning-awareness campaign, called Respect the Water. It is about pushing home the after effects if something does happen and getting the shock factor out there. It really concerns me that they are jumping off the ice unit.”
Following the meeting, Dr Paul Morrison, representing the Harbour Commission, admitted that tombstoning is an annual problem at Amble, but said the authority would ‘wholeheartedly welcome’ anything that stops this sort of behaviour.
“We are very keen to play our part,” he said, adding that additional signage warning of the dangers could be installed.
A county-council spokeswoman added: “Our youth workers have become aware of a number of instances where young people have become involved in behaviour of this type, which carries high risk to their wellbeing.
“We have been speaking to the RNLI and the police and are in discussions with them about undertaking some work through our youth-work sessions with young people aimed at helping to educate them of the risks involved and deter them from taking part in these activities in the future.”