Midmar Mile organisers take extra precautions to ensure a safe race

2015-02-04 00:00

FOLLOWING last year’s tragedy, where 43-year-old Herman van Straden drowned while swimming the Midmar Mile business relay, race organisers have taken a proactive approach.

Swimmers will get an added safety measure to give them some extra peace of mind.

The safe-swimmer device — a bright orange float — will be available to all swimmers this year.

First-time or nervous swimmers may feel more comfortable knowing they can stay afloat should they get too tired or get into trouble during the swim.

In just four days’ time, thousands of eager swimmers will splash into Midmar Dam to complete the world’s biggest open water swimming event.

“The devices are not compulsory to use, but are there if people are concerned about the swim,” race director Wayne Riddin said.

The float is filled with air and will offer enough buoyancy to keep a swimmer afloat should they struggle during the race. They are easily clipped around the swimmer’s waist and create minimal drag on the water.

“We are trying to make the race more water-safe and this offers some peace of mind. We will be moving the floats back to the start line once swimmers have finished the race to accommodate those who would like to use them,” Riddin said.

At last week’s race launch, Riddin said that the 2014 incident was a tragedy and every effort was being made to make the event safer this year.

“There were many criticisms last year after the drowning but we have to thank the South African Navy and police divers and all those that helped us through it. It was a difficult situation,” he said.

Brad Glaspoole, the official race spokesperson, during the race weekend this year, echoed those sentiments.

“There are many challenges with such an event especially with so many people on the water. The SAPS and Navy divers are here to support us again this year and we have a large number of people looking after our swimmers.

“We have put a number of procedures in place and we have run through many scenarios in case of an incident.”

Glaspoole stressed that the emergency services team would focus on the task at hand first, saying “our first priority is to solve the problem at hand; we will inform the media and other parties once we are in control of the situation”.

Another safety measure sees the number of participants in each batch limited to 500 swimmers, while each event is limited to 2 500. If the numbers exceed that, swimmers will filter into the next event, said Riddin.

If any swimmer takes longer than 40 minutes to pass the halfway mark they will be removed from the water.

“If they refuse to the leave the water, swimmers will be banned from the event in future,” Riddin said.

The Water Safety Committee will also do sweeps after each event to check the water for obstacles.

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