Marathon Swimmers Forum
Safety in the Great North Swim
edited June 2014
This discussion was created from comments split from:
Midmar Mile getting too big to handle safety?
Today during the Great North Swim a swimmer lost his life. Allegedly 50,000 people signed up to swim during the events. Information is scarce at the moment but this could be another reason to stop large participant swims. RIP.
People die in marathons (running) where help is generally within a few metres or at least much quicker than any open water event could be... even a solo person swimming can unfortunately die with a support team right at hand. Without trying to sound too blasé about this (as I think we should always be trying to improve safety), we have to accept that a lot of the risk needs to be accepted by the swimmer. People train in Dover all the time with no support at all, but they are generally more ‘open water educated’. That is here we need to concentrate. On making people more aware of the risks, so they train and are better prepared. But you will never eliminate deaths completely. I had a friend for died of a heart attack while running the 2 Oceans marathon. He was in his 20’s and represented his country in running. Sometime all the safety measures in the world aren’t going to save someone.
the GNS has nowhere near 500 swimmers per wave (I think it's up to 200 max), and far more kayakers and other safety cover than you can see on that pic, which has clearly been framed to highlight the mass participation aspect of the event. I was there on Saturday (just watching, not swimming), and the safety cover is excellent. I saw a number of people raising their hands for help quite early in their swims and being assisted extremely quickly, either through reassurance and encouragement, a chance to hold on to a kayak to get their breath and calm down, or to leave the water. It must be very traumatic for the safety crews and organisers when a tragedy like that happens, as well as for the family obviously, so I think we should be careful about unfounded accusations of insufficient safety cover. A fatality, however tragic, doesn't mean that the safety cover was at fault; sometimes things happen very quickly and irrevocably.