Councillors vow to “redouble” efforts to improve safety at Alton Water after tragic death of Matt Dunnett

Lemons Hill Bridge, Tattingstone

Lemons Hill Bridge, Tattingstone

Calls for extra water safety measures have been made by villagers following the tragic death of a 22-year-old man at Alton Water.

Matt Dunnett with niece, Amy.

Matt Dunnett with niece, Amy. - Credit: Archant

The body of Matt Dunnett, of Woodhouse Square in Ipswich, was recovered on Tuesday evening after more than an hour of searching by emergency services.

It is not yet known how Mr Dunnett died, but residents have described how it is common for people to swim in the lake during the summer months.

Former resident, Susan Hemmings, said: “The tragic recent death of a young man in the water at Alton Water was an accident that was eventually bound to happen.

“We lived a few yards from the bridge for 15 years. For many years now as soon as school lessons for older pupils stop and the weather is pleasant, large groups of lively young people come to the bridge from noon onwards to demonstrate their fearless jumping skills.”

Lemons Hill Bridge, Tattingstone

Lemons Hill Bridge, Tattingstone

Councillors vowed to “redouble” their efforts to raise awareness of water safety and insisted that more needs to be done.

David Wood, county councillor for Shotley Peninsula who lives in Tattingstone, said safety on the bridge had concerned him “for many years” and had been an accident “waiting to happen”.

He said: “I am very saddened to hear of the death of the young man and my thoughts are with his family and those who knew him.”

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Mr Wood said there have been ongoing fears for the safety of young people jumping from the bridge to cool off in hot weather, with residents having reported their concerns to Tattingstone Parish Council and Anglian Water, which operates the site, on a number of occasions.

Lemons Hill Bridge, Tattingstone

Lemons Hill Bridge, Tattingstone

He added: “We have had Bridge Watch and other things to prevent people jumping into the water. I just hope this galvanises police, Anglian Water and the community to work together to come to a solution to prevent an unfortunate accident ever happening again.”

One local resident reported seeing between 30 and 40 youngsters jumping from the bridge in Lemons Hill last summer, as well as dinghies being launched off the bridge, leading to regular police appearances in the area.

Despite the bridge having signs warning people not to jump into the water, Mr Wood believes more needs to be done to educate people on the risks it poses.

He added: “There’s a formal route by introducing bylaws but we really need more education which has got to be in partnership with all the interested parties and police to alleviate the problem.

Area Commander, Ian bowell, who was in charge of the incident

Area Commander, Ian bowell, who was in charge of the incident

“The young are always going to be young, but we really have to bring home the dangers.”

It is expected that councillors will meet with Anglian Water and police officers over the coming weeks to discuss possible solutions to prevent people diving into the water to cool off in hot weather, and address the concerns of residents.

Albert Collins, chairman of Tattingstone Parish Council, said: “Tattingstone Parish Council is very saddened to learn of the death of this young man, We send our condolences to his family and friends.

“There has been a pattern of activity at this site in recent years of youngsters jumping from the bridge for fun during spells of hot weather and we have been working with Anglian Water and the police to try to dissuade them from doing so.

“We will redouble our efforts in this regard as a result of this tragedy.”

A spokesman from Anglian Water, added: “We’re saddened to hear that a man lost his life in a tragic incident at Alton Water on Tuesday.

“This incident is a stark reminder that swimming in reservoirs like Alton Water can be exceptionally dangerous, as well as illegal in many cases.

“We urge people to take notice of the signs warning against entering the water that are all around the reservoir, to prevent a recurrence of this terrible tragedy.”