FIREFIGHTERS were seen apparently measuring the depth of Southsea’s Canoe Lake days after the death of tragic Simon Burgess – but their employers have refused to say why.
Members of the three-strong crew were snapped by 70-year-old Steve Chivers just five days after Mr Burgess was left lying face-down in a Gosport lake because firefighters would not go into the water.
Mr Chivers, of St Helen’s Parade, Southsea, watched as the crew appeared to use a stick to assess the depth of the popular boating lake near his home.
Their actions left Mr Chivers wondering whether they were gathering information to help decide whether fire crews should go in to rescue anyone who fell in. But despite questions from The News, MPs and council leaders, Hampshire Fire and Rescue have refused to say what they were doing or whether they are measuring lakes and ponds across Hampshire.
Mr Chivers said: ‘I saw a fire truck come up and park by the museum.
‘They got their stick and I thought they were going to rescue somebody. One of them leaned over to check the depth. They took quite a long time, walking all the way around.
‘They should say what they were doing. We heard about what happened in Gosport and the fact they wouldn’t go in the water. Would they not be able to go and get someone if they fell in Canoe Lake?’
A storm erupted after 41-year-old Simon Burgess died after being seen face-down in Walpole Park Lake, Gosport. The first firefighters on the scene did not enter the water and instead waited for a specialist unit to arrive from Fareham.
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock has asked Portsmouth City Council to investigate what was happening in Mr Chivers’s photo ‘as a matter of importance’.
And Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage has written to the fire service for an explanation. She said: ‘I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation to everything they do and how they behave.
‘But sometimes it’s just much better to be open and honest and tell people what was going on.’
Cllr Lee Hunt, the city’s leader for sports and leisure, added: ‘I would like to know what they were up to. Our officers have asked to talk to the fire service and ask them what they were doing.’
Deputy chief fire officer Dave Curry, of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, previously said the Gosport fire crew made the proper judgement in waiting for specialist help. Neither he nor Hampshire Fire and Rescue would discuss what firefighters were doing at Canoe Lake.
The fire service refused to answer questions for several days before responding with a statement which said: ‘The service has made it very clear that it supports the judgement made by its professional officers with the recovery of the body in the proper and most dignified way.
‘We continue to remain committed to saving lives, whether they be from burning buildings, road traffic collisions or the threat of drowning.
‘The service feels it has nothing further it can add.’