Shane Walsh tragedy: Shrewsbury dad’s death casts spotlight on safety

The death of Shane Walsh has again cast the spotlight on the issue of river safety in Shrewsbury, with more questions today being asked about what can be done to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.

Floral tributes left near the River Severn in Shrewsbury. Inset: Shane Walsh.

Police confirmed on Thursday that divers had discovered Mr Walsh in the River Severn at Frankwell, four days after the 29-year-old went missing following a night out in the town.

Concerns over river safety have been at the forefront of police campaigns throughout the summer, and last month officers issued a plea to “respect” the river after five people were rescued from the water in just a week.

Crews searching the river

There have also been a number of efforts to minimise the risk posed by the River Severn over the past three years.

Extra barriers and new lighting were put in along some stretches of the river, along with life buoys, while footpaths were widened in some areas.

Seven people have died in the river since 2010, with more than 50 having to be rescued by emergency services in that time.

Team Shrewsbury, an organisation made made up of a number of groups, including Shropshire Council, West Mercia Police, Shrewsbury Town Council and Shropshire Fire & Rescue, works to monitor and improve river safety in the town.

It says “river safety will remain as a priority for Team Shrewsbury, especially after yesterday’s tragic news”.

As part of its efforts its members carry out checks of safety equipment and tow paths, while barriers and gates can be closed in times of flood.

It says that CCTV has also recently been upgraded and is closely monitored.

As part of the efforts to prevent any tragedy Shrewsbury’s Street Pastors also work to warn late-night drinkers of the dangers of being near the water, and have themselves participated in several river rescues.

They, and door staff from town centre public houses across the town, are also throw-line trained by the fire service.

A life buoy was used in the rescue of a six-month-old baby girl in 2015.

Crews searching the river. Inset:Shane Walsh.

Three council workers had seen her pram fall into the river and two swam out to rescue the girl while their colleague threw a life buoy to help them.

Last month sergeant Keith Steele, of West Mercia Police’s Shrewsbury and Rural safer neighbourhood team, said police were concerned about the number of river-related incidents in recent weeks.

Speaking at the time he said: “Police and emergency services are appealing to the community to respect our rivers and lakes.

“This is after five people entered the River Severn in the last week alone. Luckily no one was seriously injured but emergency services are being called out on a regular basis.

“Both alcohol and vulnerable adults were involved on separate occasions. Our fire and rescue service boat has been called out last week on a number of occasions.

“Posters asking to respect water river safety advice are being placed at relevant places.

“We are working on a joint approach on this along with the Samaritans, Street Pastors and Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.” He added: “Please stay safe and respect our rivers and water courses. Our rivers are unpredictable with both cold spots and underlying currents.”

Shrewsbury is not the only town with concerns over river safety.

In July 19-year-old Montgomery cricketer James Corfield was found dead in the River Wye after going missing following a night out while he was at the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells.

Since his death a number of groups, including the police, Powys County Council, and the show organisers have met to discuss what can be done to improve river safety in the town.