The irresponsible actions of people throwing life rings into the river at Dromore Park have been condemned by Councillor Marie Hamilton, as she calls for more action to be taken to tackle the problem.
Mrs Hamilton highlighted the issue after she was contacted by a man who tried to retrieve a ring from the stretch of water.
“I contacted the police about this problem and they were most helpful and said they would investigate it,” said Mrs Hamilton.
“I also contacted NI Water but they came back to say it wasn’t within their remit.”
In a message to those who are tampering with the safety equipment, Mrs Hamilton continued: “If they had young family relatives, how would they feel if one of them fell into the river and there was no life ring in place to save them?
“It’s of very little significance to these people to move the rings, but they need to look beyond and see how dangerous their actions can be.
“It might seem funny to do at the time, but it’s not funny if a child or someone falls into the river and there is no ring to save them.
“Could they live with themselves if a child lost a life?
Mrs Hamilton has also warned against members of the public trying to retrieve rings from the river.
“No-one should ever go in after the ring. They might think it is fine at the time but then find it is dangerous. It’s better that a life ring goes down the river than someone falls in trying to get it back again.
The Director of Environmental Services explained that tampering with life rings is an ongoing problem and signs have been erected in the park highlighting the danger of this.
The Council said that during the summer holidays there has been a rise in the number of life rings being tampered with.
The spokesman continued: “Town wardens regularly check on them. Any missing rings are replaced and any seen in the river are retrieved if within reach. This is a health and safety issue and something that the council gives priority to”.
The PSNI have also urged the public to report any incidents to them.
“We cannot stress strongly enough how dangerous it is to remove life rings”, said Sergeant Paul Ferguson of Dromore and Rathfriland Neighbourhood Policing Team. “Essentially, what you are doing is playing with people’s lives.
“The rings are there for a reason, they are there to provide a life line if someone gets into trouble in the water.
“We have been working to prevent this through proactive patrolling of the park however these occurrences are rarely reported to us so it is difficult to target our resources without an accurate pattern of offending.
“We often hear about life rings being discarded through general conversation and sometimes weeks after the incident.
“I would encourage the public to report every incident of this nature to us on the 101 non-emergency number.”