A life-saving reach pole at a weir in Biggleswade has been callously vandalised, leaving the Town Council and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) very upset.
The Mill Lane equipment, which cost £2,000, was damaged between 6.30am on Monday (July 1) and 8.30am on Tuesday (July 2) with the pole cut in half and one part left hanging over some nearby railings and floating in the water.
The reach pole was the result of one years' hard work from Biggleswade Town Council office manager, Kay Croft, and BFRS area community safety officer, David Lynch, and the pair are extremely upset that months of planning have been wasted and that lives could be at risk.
Kay said: "It was positioned on Thursday morning all looking gorgeous, and we were all really proud.
"Now we're almost back to square one. I did shed a tear myself on Tuesday when I found out what happened.
"The public are outraged. And rightly so.
"The pole is made of carbon fibre and has been cut clean in half.
"Whoever did it showed absolutely no regard - there was one death at the weir around five years ago. I can only summise that someone may have tried to swing on it."
The reach pole is going to be examined by the company who made it to see if it can be repaired or whether a new one will have to be made, but either way it will be costly.
To unlock the pole in an emergency, residents would have to call 999 to get a code, thus alerting the emergency services to the incident at the same time.
Kay added: "The groundsmen found it on Tuesday and managed to hook one part out of the water. It was dragging over the railings and into the river.
"They also regularly find drugs and nitrous oxide canisters in the area, and people damage the plants, too."
The equipment was installed last week near the weir as part of a joint initiative between Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Bedfordshire Police, and Biggleswade Town Council. The town council had paid for the weir equipment and BFRS had paid for a throw board at Dan Albone.
David Lynch, BFRS Area Community Safety Officer added: “We are shocked and saddened to hear this new and for it to happen in a small community like Biggleswade is very upsetting.
“We would appeal to anyone who knows anything of the vandalism or who has any information to contact police on 101.”
The addition of the equipment was part of a county-wide scheme to install rescue reach poles, throw bags or both in areas noted as high risk.
Since 2013, in Bedfordshire, there have been over 20 incidents recorded as accidental drowning across the county and BFRS attended more than 70 water related incidents.
The rescue equipment is kept in locked cabinets that can only be opened by a code obtained from the fire service. The code to unlock is given to a caller making a 999 call after they give the location of that board.
Superintendent Nick Lyall from Bedfordshire Police added: “It’s really disappointing to hear that the equipment can no longer be used due to vandalism. It’s in place so members of the public can help anyone who is struggling in water without putting themselves in danger, and it has the potential to save lives. It’s sad that the person or people who are responsible for vandalising it did not stop to think about that, and we are keen to find out who they are and why they did this.”