Safety concerns over jet-skiers riding in bay

Newbiggin RNLI were called to the aid of a surfer caught out by strong tidal currents off Newbiggin beach (pictured).
Newbiggin RNLI were called to the aid of a surfer caught out by strong tidal currents off Newbiggin beach (pictured).
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CALLS are being made to regulate water sports in Newbiggin Bay following concerns over safety.

Swimmers, paddling toddlers and even people walking on the beach are in danger from jet-ski riders, councillors have been warned.

Safety expert Richard Glen likened the situation to the powerboat accident that killed singer Kirsty MacColl in Mexico in 2000.

And after his warning, Newbiggin town councillors called on the county council to take urgent action.

Jet-skiers are banned from launching on beaches in the north of the county, but there are no prohibitions at Newbiggin.

However, there is concern a launching ban might not be effective as the machines could still be ridden to the bay from places where they are allowed.

Mr Glen said: “The problem with jet-skis in a very small bay like that is lethal, because if you have got swimmers that will swim out to the middle of the bay and you have got a jet-ski at the far side and he accelerates, as they do – they literally lift out of the water.

“He is on the swimmer in a matter of seconds and there is no way that swimmer would survive a collision with that jet-ski.

“Kirsty MacColl is the classic example because she was killed by a 14-year-old boy.

“If the operator fell off, the jet-ski would come surging up the beach, and woe betide anyone who’s in the way.”

He added that because there were no signs or barriers preventing riders launching at Newbiggin, lawyers in a civil case “would persecute anyone who has been reckless enough to allow these machines on that beach”.

Mr Glen, a member of the International Institute of Health and Safety Management, had been called in by the town council to carry out a risk assessment amid growing concern about the number of jet-ski riders converging on the bay on Sundays.

Chairperson Coun Rebecca McCready said: “This is now a matter of urgent priority because it has been raised to us with authority that it is a problem.

“Now if an accident happens, we have been made aware of it and the county council have been made aware of it.

“We have got a duty of care to everybody – and also to the jet-skiers, because I wouldn’t want to be that 14-year-old boy who killed Kirsty MacColl and live with that for the rest of my life.”

Coun Will Rogers said: “I saw a jet-skier who came between two other guys and he was throwing water up and splashing them.

“He was travelling at some speed – it was a ridiculous situation.”

Town clerk Dennis Earl said he believed the county council would have to regulate sports in the bay.

“Just putting signs up would not prevent danger to swimmers or toddlers walking in the water,” he said.

Coun Alan Thompson, county executive member, said he had raised the issue with the county on hearing the result of the risk assessment and he would pass on Mr Glen’s report.

The situation was distressing local people, the meeting heard.

Mr Glen said noise was also a problem because the bay acted as an amplifier.

Coun Mavis Cholerton said one woman living on the seafront was considering putting her house up for sale because she found the noise intolerable.

“One lady was terrified for the children paddling in the sea because the jet-skiers were going on the beach and the children were there,” she said.

“It just can’t be allowed to go on.”