Rescue volunteer's plea for caution on Scotland's lochs

One of the country's longest serving rescue volunteers has made a heartfelt plea to Scots not to become another drowning statistic this summer.
Iain MacKinnon knows of 37 deaths on Loch Awe. Picture: Neil BarrIain MacKinnon knows of 37 deaths on Loch Awe. Picture: Neil Barr
Iain MacKinnon knows of 37 deaths on Loch Awe. Picture: Neil Barr

In his 30 years of service with Oban Volunteer Coastguard Team Iain MacKinnon has witnessed the harrowing effects of 80 water-related fatalities on grieving relatives, friends and rescue workers.

Almost half of the deaths he recalls have been on Loch Awe, where he is Coordinator of Lochwatch Loch Awe, set up to address public demand to make the loch safer, after the tragic death of four Glasgow fishermen in 2009.

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Speaking on the final day of the Royal Lifesaving Society’s National Drowning ­Prevention Week yesterday, Mr MacKinnon said: “There must have been 80 fatalities in the inland waters and coastal search areas our team covers since I have been in the Coastguard.

“People have died in the ­River Awe, there have been quite a few in the River Orchy over the years and there have been 37 fatalities that I know of in Loch Awe.”

He has seen a pattern over the years of tragedies happening on holidays and days out.

Mr MacKinnon, 56, who joined the Coastguard team when he was 26, added: “Most people don’t go out in the morning and expect to go in the water, more than 50 per cent don’t expect to end up on the water.

“They have been doing a shoreside activity, and have been walking by a river or canal and end up in the water.”

The campaign aims to highlight the dangers of all waters, but especially inland waters.

Mr MacKinnon said: “Four hundred people die in the UK each year from drowning and more than half drown in inland waters.”

Urging people to wear lifejackets in or near the water he said: “We have cycle helmets on the roads, smoke alarms in the home and if you wear a ­lifejacket and you fall in the water you are safe.”