shropswaterShropshire CFO John Redmond has praised the "immense contribution" of Street Pastors in achieving a dramatic fall in drownings in the River Severn in Shrewsbury.

There have been no deaths in the 'Shrewsbury loop' section of the river which runs through the medieval town centre since the Street Pastors took to the streets in November 2011. Previously there had been 29 deaths in the river since 2004.

CFO Redmond praised the Street Pastors as he responded to their request to give them lifesaving tuition on how to safely rescue people who fall into the river late at night.

The church going volunteers, who range from the mid-twenties to retired, and include teachers, charity and health workers, will learn how to throw buoyancy aids and lines from the safety of the towpath to anyone struggling in the water.

Firefighters are holding three 90 minute training sessions for 30 street pastors during September following CFO Redmond's call to the organisation on how the Service could help them in their bid to protect vulnerable people on the streets of Shrewsbury.

"The contribution from Street Pastors to community safety in the past 12 months has been immense,” said CFO Redmond.

“Our firefighters are pleased to help with their request to improve their water safety skills."

Senior fire officers have drawn up a special riverside practical training schedule when firefighters from Shrewsbury’s blue watch will teach the volunteers to safely throw 20 metre lines to victims in differing water conditions and give water safety advice.

Street Pastor Coordinator Ian Horne, a retired driver trainer, whose wife Jane is also a volunteer, said: “One of the main reasons why we were set up was to try and help reduce the number of river deaths in Shrewsbury town centre by identifying vulnerable people walking on their own.

"I watched a YouTube film of Street Pastors in Scotland learning how to throw rescue lines. We thought that has to be good for us to help people to remain safe so that we can rescue people if the need arises.

"This training will be invaluable as it will give us the option, if we need it, of helping someone without having to dive into the river. We do see people who are in danger of falling into the river because they are intoxicated. One young man was dancing on the Welsh Bridge and he could have toppled in at any time."