YOUNGSTERS in West Somerset are being warned about the dangers of ‘tombstoning’ after a 16-year-old boy broke his ankle jumping off a wall into just one foot of water.

The incident happened at Watchet Harbour on Sunday evening – and rescue teams say the boy was lucky not to have been far more seriously hurt.

Tombstoning is the practice of jumping into a body of water, usually from a cliff or other high point, so that the jumper enters the water vertically straight, like a tombstone.

Since 2004 the Coastguard has dealt with more than 200 incidents, with 70 injuries and 20 deaths nationwide.

Chris Rundle, from Minehead RNLI, said: “The whole business of jumping from cliffs, harbours and piers into enclosed bodies of water is incredibly dangerous – particularly when those doing it have no real idea of the depth at the point of entry.

“In this case the jumper was lucky only to break an ankle but there have been far too many instances where the emergency services have been presented with casualties who have suffered serious injuries to the point where they were beyond help.

“People might fancy the idea of getting a buzz from tombstoning but a tragically high number of them have literally ended up under tombstones of their own.”

Watchet Marina manager James Burnell added: “The problem is, firstly, people don’t know what they’re jumping in to.

“You don’t know what’s underneath that water and, secondly, especially here at Watchet Marina, you have boats coming in and out of the harbour, even more so on the weekend, and one day someone is going to get run over by a boat.

“I think it is a particular problem with the youngsters as they’re quite new to it and don’t realise the dangers.

“It’s a bit of fun to them and they don’t really understand the dangers.

“Accidents are happening more and more every year in the UK ... people shouldn’t be taking risks like this.”

Watchet Coastguard Simon Bale said: “This is also important to parents – do you know where your kids are and what they’re getting up to.

“In Watchet there is the danger of being thrown into the mud.

“It’s not just the water itself,you can hurt yourself jumping in by tripping or falling.  The risks aren’t worth it.”

Devon and Somerset Fire Rescue Service is urging people to remain vigilant regarding the dangers posed to children jumping into the sea and other unsupervised open-water locations.

Area manager Phil Martin said: “It’s natural for children and teenagers to gather near openwater locations to cool off; however analysis of drowning incidents suggests that most people have a poor level of awareness of safety issues in such environments.” 

  • WEST Somerset Council and the Watchet Coastguard worked with young people to make them aware of the dangers and the council has an advisory video on its website