FIRE safety chiefs have warned youngsters not to jump off bridges into rivers and canals after a group of youngsters were spotted plunging into the Thames in Pangbourne.

A worried onlooker spotted a large group of teenagers jumping from the bridge that divides Whitchurch and Pangbourne on Monday, June 14.

Preferring to remain anonymous, they said: “I was very concerned about the safety of the people jumping, the river can be really dangerous.

“They were also climbing all over the bridge next to moving cars, anything could have happened.”

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This incident comes just days after the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service launched a campaign warning people about the dangers of swimming in rivers and canals, which can have “devastating” outcomes.

Commenting on the picture of the youngsters jumping into the river in Pangbourne, Charlotte Lee, prevention manager at RBFRS, said: “With the weather beginning to warm up, it might be quite appealing to jump in for a swim to cool yourself down, but please don’t cool off in rivers, lakes, canals and quarries.

“We have attended many incidents, which despite best efforts have had devastating outcomes.

“We would advise people not to go bridge or ledge jumping, often referred to as ‘tombstoning’.

“Whilst air temperatures are increasing, water temperatures can still be very cold.

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“Cold water shock can severely hamper anyone’s ability to swim - even the strongest of swimmers.

“Cold water shock, along with hidden objects and currents, can make entering water a very hazardous activity.

“If you do encounter someone who has fallen into deep water then please call 999 straight away and ask to speak to the fire and rescue service and ambulance and shout to the person in the water ‘swim to me’.

“The water can be disorienting and this can give them a focus and depending on where you are, there might be lifebelts or throw bags so use them.”

A spokesperson for Pangbourne Parish Council said they believed RBFRS and Thames Valley Police were focusing on Pangbourne Meadows as one location targeted in promoting water safety over the summer.

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They told the Chronicle: “I would just reiterate the concerns that the Fire Service have raised around water safety and the dangers to persons bridge jumping or indeed in the water below on this popular stretch for canoeing and boating.

“I would also add that large groups gathered on the bridge can also present dangers to road users and pedestrians on the bridge .

“In addition, I am told that the police service ran a campaign a few years ago regarding the dangers of jumping “into the unknown”.

“The area was historically used for wartime bridge building practise exercises and although it has been dredged since, with the remnants of that added to modern day waste which has floated downstream, you can never be sure what objects are submerged beneath the surface.”