It’s a message that needs constant reiteration over the summer months - swimming in the Clutha River is not recommended unless you are wearing a wetsuit and lifejacket.
Two young girls under 10 had a close call on Saturday, December 29, as the speed of the water carried them off into low-hanging willow branches. Luckily help was at hand and they were pulled to shore by Go Jet Wanaka's Patrick Perkins but Marty Black, QLDC Harbourmaster, emphasises that local rivers are not children’s playgrounds. The girls were shaken but not harmed.
Bridge jumping may look fun but the frigid temperature of the water can quickly cause muscles to slow down and decrease your ability to swim; this paired with the speed of the water and the dangers lurking beneath mean it is a tragedy waiting to happen.
On Sunday, December 30, a man decided to swim across the river and got into trouble. Someone on the bridge saw his distress and jumped in to save him but also got into trouble himself. Luckily there were commercial operators with jet skis in the vicinity that sped to the rescue.
“It was their lucky day,” said Black.
“Wear a lifejacket and keep off the booze. The cold mixed with the alcohol in your blood is a real hazard.”
Black said that it’s not possible to stop people bridge jumping but urges that if you’re going to do it, to do so safely. Be prepared for frigid cold water so wear a wetsuit and lifejacket. Children, of all ages, should be supervised closely at all times.
Black wanted to acknowledge Sam Stewart, from Diesel & Dust, who responded within hours to remove the tree ''strainers'' - branches and roots in the water - which had been the cause of the young girls getting tangled.
''With the river running higher than normal, we got rid of all the overhanging branches and made it safer for the kids. To get a contractor on a Saturday in the holidays isn't easy but Sam responded immediately.''
Black also reminded the public if you do not have a life jacket on SUPs or paddleboards, you're liable for a $300 fine.