Coastal fatality figures released today by the RNLI show 22 people lost their lives around northern English coasts last year, including nine in Northumberland.
The number of near-fatal incidents was even higher, with the RNLI’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards in the region saving 62 lives during 2015.
The figures are released as the charity enters the third year of its national drowning-prevention campaign, Respect the Water, which aims to halve accidental coastal deaths by 2024.
The campaign is targeted at adult men, who account for by far the most incidents. The five-year figures show 122 people have died on the coast around the north of England since 2011. Between 2011 and 2014, men accounted for 75 per cent of the deaths. Last year, 68 per cent were males.
A surprising trend is that around half of the coastal deaths each year are people who never planned to enter the water. Of the 122 deaths over the five-year period, 48 per cent did not intend to get wet; with people taking part in activities such as coastal walking and running.
In fact, walking and running accounted for 34 per cent of the coastal deaths in the north of England over the past five years.
General leisure use of the water, including swimming and jumping in, accounted for 27 per cent of the coastal fatalities since 2011. Last year, swimming and general leisure use accounted for 36 per cent of the fatalities around northern English coasts.
Helen Williams, of the RNLI, said: “People need to treat the water with respect – it’s powerful and unpredictable. The sea is powerful and can catch out even the strongest and most experienced swimmers.”