THE emergency services have been criticised for leaving a man floating face-down in a lake for almost half an hour – ‘for health and safety reasons’.
Police and firefighters were told not to wade into the boating lake at Walpole Park in Gosport in case they injured themselves.
Instead, they had to wait until a specialist water rescue crew arrived from Fareham – 28 minutes after the alarm was first raised.
The man, believed to be in his 40s and from Gosport, was declared dead at the scene.
Police say there were ‘no obvious signs of life’ when officers arrived yesterday.
But some witnesses are concerned that no attempt was made to reach the man as soon as possible.
Mary Morgan, 77, from Gosport, said: ‘It’s disgusting. If there’s somebody in the water you go in as soon as possible.
‘The water’s not that deep, surely? Police aren’t allowed to do it these days unless they are trained to do it.
‘But I would expect them to come in and get me out if I fell in.’
Gavin Clark, 35, from Gale Moor Avenue in Gosport, added: ‘When I arrived there was already a rapid response ambulance there and fire crews and police, but they just all seemed to be standing around, nothing was happening.
‘Another ambulance turned up and a lot more police and an air ambulance but it wasn’t until a specialist fire crew turned up with wetsuits that someone actually went into the water to get the body out – that was about 10 or 15 minutes later.’
The alarm was first raised by a member of the public at 12.17pm yesterday with the fire service first there, closely followed by a PC and a sergeant.
But police confirmed the body was not retrieved by divers until 12.45pm.
Hampshire Police spokesman Neil Miller said officers had waited for ‘health and safety reasons’.
Superintendent Phil Winchester said the first officers on the scene were told by witnesses that the man was seen entering the water up to 15 minutes before emergency services were called.
He added: ‘Officers saw no obvious signs of life so immediate entry into the water was not appropriate as it may have compromised the lives of others.
‘Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service informed police officers that a specialist unit to recover the body from the water was en route from Fareham.’
When asked if the police would have gone in if there were signs the man was alive, spokeswoman Sally Adams added: ‘Officers understand that as part of their job they may be called on to risk their own lives to save someone else’s. They are not encouraged or expected to risk their own safety to recover a body when there are specialist units trained to do so.’
A statement from the fire service echoed that of the police.
The circumstances of the death are being investigated by police. The man has not yet been formally identified.