On the evening of 24 March 2018, the Warrington Rowing Club was carrying out a boat capsize drill in a swimming pool. At around 18:30, as a young person was being pulled to the side of the pool using a throw bag rescue line, the line parted.

The young person was uninjured during the incident. The parted line was examined and found to be made up of four pieces of rope thermally fused together, and it had failed at one of the joints.

A customer notification campaign by the manufacturer, RIBER, and prompt publication of the incident in British Rowing’s newsletter, identified a total of ten throw bags with defective rescue lines.

Laboratory tests conducted for the MAIB established that the joined sections were 12 times weaker than the rope itself.

Safety lessons

  • The failure of a throw bag rescue line during an emergency rescue operation in fast flowing and deep waters could potentially result in the casualty drowning

  • A large number of throw bags are in use in the UK, both in the leisure sector and emergency rescue services. However as throw bags are not considered safety or lifesaving equipment, there is no requirement to manufacture them to a specific safety or quality standard

  • At present, the only safeguard against poor and unsafe workmanship of throw bags is limited to the quality checks of the manufacturer; such checks lack third party oversight

Recommendation

The British Standards Institution has been recommended (2019/105) to develop a standard for public rescue equipment, ensuring that the topic of throw bags and their rescue lines is addressed as a priority.

A MAIB safety bulletin highlighting a number of the safety issues was published in June 2018.