FIREFIGHTERS have reminded the public of the dangers of open water after a spate of incidents in the county - including a recent ‘life or death’ river rescue.

As the warmer weather approaches, fire crews are urging the public to remain vigilant of the open water following a number of serious call outs.

The warning comes after a man died in the River Eden near Lazonby over the weekend after falling out of a boat.

Fire crews from Ulverston also attended a ‘life or death’ rescue last Wednesday after a pair of canoeists capsized into the fast-flowing River Leven.

Gareth Brownson, crew manager at Amber Watch in Ulverston, was the officer in charge on the day, and described the incident as ‘very serious’.

He said: “A woman was rescued from the water near the Swan Hotel and we did a hasty search up the river bank to locate the man she was with.

“When we located him, he was slap bang in the middle of the river at the point where the River Leven is full of energy and fast-flowing. He was also 20 metres from the weir which is a perilous position to be in.

“He was holding onto a tree root but was very conscious and alert.

“We decided not to commit any crew members to the water as it would have been too dangerous and managed to get a lifejacket to him. He was very relieved to be rescued as he was showing signs of hypothermia. He was starting to lose feelings in his hands and it was a life or death situation.

“The couple had both fallen out of their canoe and had no flotation devices on which made the issue a lot worse.”

Mr Brownson is urging any person who plans on venturing into the water to always remain aware of the dangers.

“If you are entering into the water in a canoe or boat, make sure you have the proper flotation devices,” he said.

“You need to know a basic understanding of the river and remember the water will be very cold if you fall in. If you do fall in, roll onto your back, life your feet and bottom as high as you can and try to stay calm.

“The worst thing to do is panic and gulp down mouthfuls of water.”

Barrow and Ulverston firefighters have also been undergoing training to improve their water rescue skills as part of National Water Safety Week.

Fire crews would like to remind people to: respect open water, remain aware of cold water shock, if you’re accessing open water for leisure activities, ensure correct PPE is worn, including life-jacket or buoyancy aid, take another person with you or at least tell someone where you are going, know your limits and how to stay safe.