Ilex, the urban regeneration company for Derry~Londonderry has expressed serious concern after a number of life belts were removed from the Peace Bridge and thrown into the River Foyle over the weekend. To date, they have not been recovered.
Ilex Interim Chief Executive, Mel Higgins said: “This is a matter of public safety. The life belts are there to help save lives and these reckless acts have put lives at risk. It is crucial that life belts are available on the Peace Bridge at all times, particularly when it is being used by so many people enjoying the recent spell of good weather.
Ilex has replaced the life belts as a matter of urgency, and will continue to monitor the situation, ensuring a sufficient number are always available”.
Commenting on the removal of life belts, Area Commander Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said: “Enquiries into the incident are ongoing and we are following up on all available CCTV footage with a view to identifying those responsible. Anyone caught interfering with life saving equipment will be dealt with robustly”.
Craig Smyth from Foyle Search and Rescue added: “It is extremely disappointing for us to hear of this sort of activity going on, especially in a city with such a high suicide rate. Foyle Search and Rescue campaigned tirelessly to get lifebelts installed along the river so that members of the public could actively do something to help a person drowning. To date, lifebelts have directly saved over 35 people from drowning. People need to realise that by vandalising lifebelts they could be directly putting someone’s life at risk. This person could turn out to be a family member or friend, and it’s vitally important that the lifebelts are there and in working order. A lifebelt is the difference between life and death. Could these vandals live with themselves knowing someone drowned because of their actions?”