The past weekend has “undoubtedly been one of the worst” in the history of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, according to the park authority’s chief executive.
Gordon Watson was speaking after six people died in Scottish waters, including four in Loch Lomond, in just over 24 hours.
The youngest victim was a boy of nine, while a seven-year-old boy is also fighting for his life after they both got into difficulty in the water near to Pulpit Rock at Loch Lomond, south of Ardlui, on Saturday evening.
That incident also claimed the lives of a 41-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman.
Watson, chief executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “First and foremost, I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the loved ones of those who have died.
“I also want to thank all of those involved in the search and recovery operations. This has undoubtedly been one of the worst weekends in the National Park’s history.
“We work hard to help people enjoy the waters of the national park safely and responsibly using a range of measures, including new safety equipment on our sites, clear signage and safety campaigns in the summer months.
“Over the coming days we will, along with our partners, reflect on the events of this weekend and discuss what more can be done by us all to prevent further tragedies in our lochs.”
The first of the six fatalities occurred on Friday evening, when a 16-year-old boy died in the water at Balloch Country Park, at the south end of Loch Lomond.
Then an 11-year-old boy was pronounced dead at the scene after being found in the river at Alexander Hamilton Memorial Park in Stonehouse, South Lanarkshire, at 4.30pm on Saturday afternoon.
Police were then called out to Hazelbank in Lanark at 5.55pm, following a report of concern for a person in the water.
Emergency services who attended at the scene recovered a body from the water, with the family of a 13-year-old boy made aware of the incident.
Less than an hour later, at 6.40pm on Saturday, police were called out after a group of people got into difficulties in the water near Pulpit Rock.
As well as claiming the lives of a man, woman and child, a seven-year-old boy had to be taken by ambulance to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, where he is currently in intensive care.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her “thoughts and condolences” were with the families of those who had died and urged people to stay safe in Scotland’s waters.
She tweeted: “This is heartbreaking – my thoughts and condolences are with the loved ones of those who have lost their lives in the water over the past couple of days.
“In Scotland, we have some of the most beautiful lochs and rivers in the world – but if swimming in them, please take care.”
Assistant chief constable Mark Williams, of Police Scotland, said the number of deaths that had taken place in open waters over Friday and Saturday was “hard to comprehend”.
He said: “The warm weather can make open water swimming and paddling very inviting but it is extremely dangerous, even for the most experienced swimmers or supervised children. The conditions can change very quickly and there are often hidden risks like deeper water and strong currents.
“The message I want to send to everyone is exercise extreme caution. It is better to keep a safe distance from water if possible.
“Tragically, this weekend has highlighted that open water is very, very dangerous. If you see someone in the water and distressed call 999 immediately.
“Remember, you could get into difficulty yourself trying to help so please take care and seek help as soon as possible.”
A senior officer also said the past weekend was one of the worst in memory for the fire service.
Alasdair Perry, a deputy assistant chief officer for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, told BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “This is the worst weekend in relation to incidents of this nature I can remember and I’d like to offer my condolences and those of everyone at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to all those affected by this weekend’s tragic events, and in particular to the friends and families of all those involved.”