A YORK mother has told how her four-year-old son nearly drowned in the River Ouse near York – and warned other parents to beware of hidden but treacherous currents in the water.
Laura Hutchinson, of Wigginton, said she had gone with her son Toby to the riverside near Beningbrough Hall, upstream of York, for a picnic on the sandy shore last Friday when tragedy nearly struck.
She said she watched Toby as he went down to the water’s edge to wash his hands, and he was only in up to his ankles when he suddenly stumbled backwards and into the water.
“I jumped straight in with all my clothes on but by the time I got to him he was already disappearing under the water,” she said.
“I just got to him in time and managed to grab him and pulled him back to shore, but I could feel the currents pulling at me.
“He wasn’t harmed but he was distraught. It was really scary. It was really upsetting. The currents are really dangerous there, where two rivers join together.”
She wanted to speak out to warn other parents but she also believed signs should be put up on the riverside to warn people of the dangers, and had contacted Beningbrough Hall to raise her concerns.
A National Trust spokeswoman said it was concerned to hear about the incident and was glad the family was safe.
“The sandy area near Beningbrough Hall occurs on the banks of the River Ouse when the water level is low,” she said.
“The area is situated within the wider National Trust parkland, and is part of wild, open countryside. Very few visitors who pay to enter the hall and garden visit this area of the parkland but we are aware that the beach is popular amongst our local community.
“It’s important that members of the public understand the hidden dangers of open water and we advise people not to use this area for swimming, bathing or paddling because the river is a natural hazard.
“We continue to work closely with the council and Waterways Trust, in conjunction with the police, monitor the situation and establish if there are further steps we may be able to take.”
A spokeswoman for York Rescue Boat said swimming in open water was a decision made by individuals, and it was their responsibility to check if it was safe and legal to do so.
“Ultimately, our advice is: if in doubt keep out!” she said.
She said light refracted in water, so looking into water gave a skewed view of the depth, making it look shallower than it is.
“With the current low river levels the shallower water may look inviting, but it is deceptive,” she said.
“If there is another watercourse joining at this point, there will be eddies and currents but again, nothing unusual.”