Friday, September 21, 2007

Dale's Diary: Consequences of Letting Knee Follow Jerk

UPDATE: Report of earlier Bolton Inquest (MEN, 15 Sept) Don't swim signs had been vandalised. PCSOs are not mentioned. Jordon was under water for an estimated 30 minutes before being dragged out. The kids were unaccompanied and unrelated anglers helped save the girl. The "pond" is a flooded mine subsidence. There are many of these in Leigh and Wigan. Many of the pit villages and overspill estates of the 1940s and 50s - like Higher Folds where I've spent time - are surrounded by wild country, capped works, ditches and hazards. I've been impressed with the discipline of the kids - in general - staying safe.

Thanks to Matthew for pointing in comments to one picture at BBC Manchester. This one is from Times Online taken by Martin Ricketts of PA Online.

ORIGINAL POST: Sadly a young boy from the Wigan area drowned on 3 May this year. Two PCSOs were nearby. When they arrived he could not be seen. They did not attempt a rescue themselves. One was attempted soon after by an experienced career police officer and by the boy's father and uncle.

Iain Dale perhaps knows or understands even less of the details than I do - though I've now read the Standard linked below - but slams this as The Consequences of Letting Procedure Rule. Perhaps he is wrong about that.

These are perhaps not too well remembered. But here goes, You'll get a flavour:

First rule of rescue: Don't become a victim yourself.
Second rule: Coach, Reach, Throw, Wade, Swim in that order. And in the latter two cases with lifeline or buoyancy is possible.
Third rule: Be absolutely clear where the victim is and have a plan.
Final rule of rescue: Don't become a victim yourself.

In this particular case my understanding is that the lake was the size of a football pitch not some imagined minor pond. The missing child was not visible to by-standers or potential rescuers by the time the PCSOs arrived. The PCSOs did immediately seek skilled help. Although Iain reports this lake to be around 6 feet deep I'm not sure that was widely known at the time. Even so would that make it a wading situation for most PCSOs?

And I also know from various environmental workouts and water adventures that binding weeds, tree branches and stumps, cars bikes and assorted junk, jagged things, broken glass, semi-submerged objects, other submerged objects, unknown currents and deeps, all these and more can be very hazardous.

Whatever has snagged or injured the victim may get potential rescuers too. Large numbers of people die every year trying to effect rescues. Sometimes through lack of skill and knowledge. Sometimes by unfair bad luck.

There are occasions when the victim gathers themselves and gets out. And some where they are not really in the hazard at all. In fact reading the Standard report, beyond partisan headlines, pull outs and captions, this case is one of a rescuer becoming victim.

The dead boy had rescued his step sister Bethany but at the expense of his own life. He had heroically carried her on his shoulders until she was grabbed. But being shorter than six feet tall he was under the water for much of this time, disappeared and was drowned. We will never know whether she would have survived without this rescue.

PCSO's in Greater Manchester, as elsewhere are out on the streets with far less training than modern police officers. If they are strong swimmers, knowledgeable about rescue and risk assessment, then this is not from their induction training.

On Monday 10 September Chris Maclure a PCSO in Greater Manchester - also in fact in Wigan - DIED in the course of using some equipment for which he had not been fully trained. That equipment? A push bike. He was hit by a wagon. As a result a minimum of 12 months familiarity or specialised training is being required for officers, including full officers, patrolling on bikes. Fair enough.

The very same Greater Manchester Police assistant chief constable - Dave Thompson - that is dealing with the lake tragedy said the force was "deeply saddened" by that death.

It is all very well for by-standers and commentators in possession of or reading only half the facts to pummel away. But everyone has their own limits of courage, experience, hard skills, local knowledge and so on. We decide whether to try and help - whether it's a loose or injured animal, a child running into a road, a motorist in a crash (as attended by CP three days ago), or an invisible child that may be in a lake.

If we decide to try and rescue someone and succeed we are heroes, If we fail and die ourselves opinion could go either way really. But if it seems very dangerous, if there is not enough information, or if sensible safety rules need broken if we do act then we should not be lambasted by bloggers for trying to help in other ways.

These PCSOs may well be feeling uncomfortable or even, probably without cause in my view, ashamed. But what about the younger child who decided to jump in? What about the parents? Was either kid trained in water safety and a strong swimmer? Was the lake a permitted swimming site? What on earth were the parents thinking? They are lucky to have only lost one child.

INQUEST: We have inquests to find out as far as possible what happened and what lessons can be learned. The Standard's report is made especially unbalanced by the sub edited elements. But there are enough facts there to know that this was not a case of anyone standing idly as a child drowned before their eyes.


Matthew said...

The BBC report shows a photo of the "pond".

Chris Paul said...

Yep. Thanks. And Mr Dale was wrong about the depth as well as anything else. Presumably he's read the story properly and apologised by now?

Anonymous said...

i don't read Ian Dale and neither do my mates

Chris Paul said...

It's Iain. His blog is a glimpse at the inner workings of the old Tory psyche as well as carrying some breaking stories and therefore in my view worth a gander and the odd rebuttal.

Anonymous said...


Lifted from Dale's comments.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't Paul Kelly of the Police Federation setting up a Union for the PCSOs instead of bellyaching that they are not police officers. We know that. But we still appreciate the investment and what these community bobbies-lite are able to get done.