A SIGN has been put up by Redditch Council alerting people to the dangers of swimming in open water at a section of the River Arrow where two young children nearly drowned last week.

An 11-year-old boy and his six-year-old sister were swimming in the River Arrow near Dolphin Road shortly before 12.35pm on Wednesday, July 24, when they got into difficulty. Their cries for help were heard by a man and a woman passing on one side of the river. The couple both went into the water to grab the children and another rescuer, a man on the opposite bank, helped pull them out of the river to safety.

The boy was taken by land ambulance to the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and his sister, who was in a more serious condition when she was pulled from the water, was flown by air ambulance to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Detective Inspector Vikki Reay of West Mercia Police said: “Were it not for the actions of these people who were nearby we could be looking at a double tragedy – these children had a very lucky escape.

“This illustrates all too plainly the dangers of swimming in or playing near open water and such an incident right at the start of the school summer holidays also serves as a warning to parents to be aware of where their children are and what they are doing.”

The incident in Redditch follows four recent open water deaths in West Mercia.

Det Insp Reay added: “Please think twice about going into open water and if you must take a dip please do so in the safety of a public swimming pool. The last thing we want is another tragedy and that’s what we nearly had in Redditch”

Redditch’s Labour parliamentary spokesman Rebecca Blake said: “Thank goodness for the brave and swift action of the passers-by, who rescued both children. Had it not been for them I dread to think what would have happened.

“The message has to be loud and clear - do not enter open water. Let's learn from this near miss here in Redditch and from the other tragedies that have taken place around the country.

“I've contacted the head of community services for an urgent site visit to see how we can make the area more safe.”

A council spokesman, who confirmed a warning sign had been put at the location, said: “Signs are not the only and main preventative measure that we would take to ensure our residents are safe near water and it would be a massive undertaking to make sure signs are installed at every watercourse throughout the borough.

“However, we will take every reasonable practical action to make sure everyone, and youngsters in particular, are safe. This includes continuing to provide safety advice to them from our rangers as part of their patrols."