‘SENSELESS’ thrillseekers illegally jumping from Devil’s Bridge should be hauled before the courts and ‘made an example of’.
That is the call being made by Kirkby Lonsdale town councillor Paul Stephenson.
He was this week among those slamming people who continued making the 30ft leap almost a year to the day since 22-year-old Darrell Teal died ‘tombstoning’ from the town’s monument.
Coun Stephenson said a bylaw introduced to stop the action was not working.
He wants people who dice with death to face magistrates so a message is sent to others.
Meanwhile, Cumbria Police has urged the public to stop watching the decades-old danger activity and tell would-be jumpers they could die.
Sergeant John Stephens encouraged people to be ‘community spirited’ and said individuals must be responsible for their own safety as police could not monitor the bridge all the time.
The renewed calls came as large crowds gathered at the beauty spot, with South Lakeland sizzling in its hottest temperatures of the year.
Coun Stephenson told the Gazette: “I don’t know of anyone that has been fined. Obviously, it’s not working because it’s not stopping them.
“If the police were there a bit more and a few people were put before the magistrates and made an example of, it might deter people.
“I don’t think they appreciate what it’s like to lose someone close. They have no sense.
“It’s really down to education or fining them for doing it but the police can’t be there to do it all the time.
Sgt Stephens said: “One of the issues is we don’t get many calls from members of the public saying people are jumping.
“Don’t stand there watching and encouraging and clapping, go and stop them – not physically – but point out that’s it’s dangerous.
“You wouldn’t watch someone cross a railway line, so why watch them throw themselves off Devil’s Bridge and potentially die, or seriously injure themselves?”
An inquest found Mr Teal, of Manchester, drowned after hitting the cold water and passing out while jumping with friends last July.
South and East Cumbria Coroner Ian Smith ruled his death was accidental and pleaded with people to ‘think twice’ before jumping, adding: “It’s almost like hitting a solid object from that height.”
But with scores of people eager to enjoy the long-awaited heatwave, Mr Smith’s warning appeared to have fallen on deaf ears.
While, many sun-seekers were happy to cool off by paddling in the River Lune, others made death-defying jumps into the dark water just feet away.
To the amazement of stunned onlookers, some threw themselves off the three-arched structure head-first backwards, close to jagged rocks.
The jumpers – mainly sunburt young men in their late teens and early twenties - could be seen doing ‘trial runs’ by diving off a rockface into the deepest part of the river.
Some then opted against the illegal leap, while others seemed to grow in confidence. One teenager – aged around 17 - tapped his fingers on the 14th century brickwork while looking thoughtfully below, before turning away.
On Tuesday afternoon, four people jumped in half an hour, with two people ignoring the advice of a concerned woman who told them ‘it really isn’t as deep as it looks’.
People watched with bated breath to see if the plucky plungers came up again unscathed.
One man gasped loudly for air after resurfacing, as he was caught by the river’s icy temperature.
He did not wish to be named, but later told the Gazette he did it ‘for the rush’.
An echoing smacking noise could be heard when another young man entered the water, drawing groans from people looking on from the bridge and riverbank.
He shouted ‘ouch’ to his cheering friends and later complained of having a sore arm.
The man – aged 22 – said it wasn’t the first time he had made the jump, telling the Gazette: “I did it last year.”
The bridge bylaw was introduced in 1998 and is enforced by Cumbria Police and South Lakeland District Council.
If caught, people flouting it can be fined £500.
But Sgt Stephens said prosecutions relied on police actually seeing people jump, or witnesses being prepared to give statements.
He added: “As individuals, we have all got to take responsibility for our own safety. The police and other organisations can’t completely control every individual.”
Matthew Neal, solicitor to South Lakeland District Council, said: “This is a criminal activity and anyone who indulges in such reckless behaviour faces the risk of being prosecuted and receiving a hefty fine.
“In previous years people have been killed and seriously injured at Devil’s Bridge.
“There are clear signs in the area warning people of the dangers. We would ask the public to work with the council and the police to help prevent another tragedy.”