The Environment Minister has encouraged people to stay away from disused quarries over the holidays, weeks after the death of a Dromara teenager.
Fifteen-year-old Kevin O’Hare drowned after getting into difficulties at Paul’s Quarry on the outskirts of Annalong.
Colin Polland, who was on holiday from England, jumped into the water at the isolated quarry in an attempt to rescue the teenager but also drowned.
Now DoE Minister, Alex Attwood, has launched a new scheme entitled ‘Stay Out! Stay Safe!’, aimed at discouraging people from swimming in dangerous waters.
He said: “We all should be aware of the dangers of disused quarries. Several people have died in disused quarries in recent years. I have met or heard from some of the families and their pain and anxiety that more lives should not be lost, is vivid.
“Disused quarries are not playgrounds. They are not places to explore. I cannot emphasise enough that everyone, adults, teenagers and children must stay away.
“Most people do not realise how very cold quarry water can be. It can be much colder than rivers and the sea and this causes swimmers, even the best swimmers, to cramp, go into shock and drown quickly.
“Quarries pose other hidden dangers. Old machinery can be left in the quarry and become submerged by rainwater over time.
“Such machinery may not be visible and can cause serious injury or death to anyone who jumps onto it.
“I urge all parents to know where your children are at all times, particularly during the summer holidays.”
Quarry water can also be polluted with industrial contaminants or can be very alkaline, both of which can cause skin irritations and other health complaints.
Disused quarries also pose a threat to motorcyclists and mountain bikers through collapse or subsidence or a landslide of a quarry face.
The Minister chaired a meeting attended by representatives of government departments, including the Department of Justice, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the Health and Safety Executive NI, district councils and the Quarry Products Association.
The Department of the Environment has also issued warning on NIdirect webpages in an effort to dissuade people from visiting disused quarries, particularly in the good weather when the schools are off.