GPS signs to be installed along river following death of teenage boy

Renfrewshire Council will install signs along the River Gryfe in a bid to improve water safety.

GPS signs to be installed along river following death of teenage boy © Google Maps 2020
William McNally died after being pulled from the River Gryfe.

GPS signs that let police know exactly where a distress call is coming from are set to be installed along the River Gryfe in Renfrewshire as the council continues its efforts to improve water safety following the death of a 13-year-old boy.

William McNally was pulled from the water in June after he had been swimming in a section known locally as the Clay Pits.

The Linwood High pupil was rescued by several heroic friends but tragically succumbed to his injuries three days later in Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Children.

Since the tragedy, the council has installed safety buoys and ropes in the area to try and ensure such an incident does not repeat itself.

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But officers have now decided to go even further by installing signs that will allow emergency services to identify exactly where a call has been made from.

Renfrewshire would become just the second council to adopt the system after Glasgow City Council, which uses it along the Clyde.

The GPS signs are set to be placed at six “potentially dangerous” and deep spots along the river – including Clay Pits – where youths are known to swim.

Each sign will have a specific code attached to it that will allow police to identify the location quickly and dispatch officers.

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Two-metre poles holding a life belt and throw rope will also be supplied by the council at the locations.

The move comes after elected members unanimously backed a motion in June requesting the council look at how it can boost safety in and around the river following William’s death.

A Renfrewshire water safety working group was immediately set up and has met several times to discuss measures that could save lives.

In a report presented to the full council, officers said: “Work has been undertaken for a number of years in relation to water safety, however, following the decision of the council in June, further steps have been undertaken.

“Temporary life belts, poles and throw ropes have been located on the riverbanks along the River Gryfe at the Clay Pits.

“The communities and regulatory manager has liaised with the family of the young man [William McNally] and local community activists who raised issues and recently walked the riverbanks with two angling clubs to identify dangerous areas.

“There have been six areas along the River Gryfe that have been highlighted as potentially dangerous. Work is under way to erect two-metre yellow poles that will hold a life belt and throw rope that will be supplied by the council.

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“There will be signage e.g. ‘Danger – Deep Water/No Swimming’, but more importantly GPS signage will be located at each site and will identify to emergency services exactly where the call has been made.

“There will also be throw ropes located in a unique colour and only used for water safety. Therefore, if it is used for other uses, it can be traced back to one of the locations.”

The River Gryfe begins to the south-west of Kilmacolm and flows for roughly 16 miles to join the Black Cart Water near Glasgow Airport in Paisley.

Alongside Clay Pits – which will have one sign at each entrance – the new equipment will be placed at the following locations:

  • Pot holes at Bridge of Weir (just down from the Livery Walk car park)
  • Land up from the viaduct in Bridge of Weir
  • Laidside/Barr’s Dam
  • Area at Ardgryffe Road in Houston
  • Bridge up from the River Inn in Houston

Four of the locations, including Clay Pits, are on private land and the council has stressed it cannot be responsible for safety equipment placed there as this would lie with the landowner.

However, bosses have pledged to work with the community to assist if any equipment is damaged or needs to be replaced at these locations.

Story by local democracy reporter Steph Brawn