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Canoeist calls for weir safety changes

PUBLISHED: 08:00 13 February 2009 | UPDATED: 07:58 01 August 2010

A CANOEIST is calling for changes to signs at the weir in Bungay where a woman drowned in front of her family.

Chris Sharp believes the Environment Agency had a "knee-jerk reaction" to introducing safety measures after the accident, and is urging it to simplify and enlarge signs near the spot where Amie Rae Drennan died in August 2007.

A CANOEIST is calling for changes to signs at the weir in Bungay where a woman drowned in front of her family.

Chris Sharp believes the Environment Agency had a “knee-jerk reaction” to introducing safety measures after the accident, and is urging it to simplify and enlarge signs near the spot where Amie Rae Drennan died in August 2007.

The family of the 30-year-old mother from Carlton Colville campaigned for more safety measures after she drowned when the dinghy she was in overturned on the River Waveney at Wainford Road.

Mr Sharp, who has been using the river for six years, has written several times to the Environment Agency to ask it to review its signs and put up warning notices about the circulating current.

He believes advice printed in a guidebook which the agency helped produce, Canoeing on the River Waveney, should be replicated in signs.

“If you go to the river itself you would have thought that they would have a more concise version reduced into bullet points and put up at every access point on the river,” he said.

He said inexperienced river-users could easily be caught out when the river is in flood, such as on the day Miss Drennan died.

“If it rains for two or three days the water level can rise a foot or so and the flow changes from being a placid little river to something that can be quite seriously dangerous if you don't know what you are doing,” he said.

He added: “The signage is so small, you've got to be on top of them to read them. I think they have done a half-hearted job and that they've had a knee-jerk reaction to this.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency, which is responsible for safety at the sluice, said: “The review of the public safety risk assessment after the tragic incident did indeed identify a few additional safety measures that we have installed since the incident.”

He said the steps taken included putting in grab chains on the walls, increasing the height of fencing around the weir, and constructing a new portage to launch boats downstream, with fencing to stop people using the original one.

The spokesman pointed out that motorised boats are not permitted on that stretch of water, and said the agency had installed a life ring in addition to the one the family donated.

He said all signs conform to British Standard, adding: “We have enlarged the signage. There are already a number of signs on the structure warning the public of strong currents among other hazards. We believe we have taken all appropriate measures.”

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