BONN AND REGION Again and again, people drown in lakes where swimming is expressly prohibited. But the heat is propelling some people to go to areas that are off-limits anyway. Security services are keeping people away in some cases.
The tree-lined waters of the Eschmarer Lake in Troisdorf shimmers in blue-green tones, an l-shaped body of water set in a rich green landscape with adjacent fields. Only a few years ago, around 300 people would come here on hot summer days to cool off, despite a strict ban on swimming in the lake. Today, a private security service with dogs patrols the area. Since then, swimmers do not end up there anymore.
"Since the security service has been in operation, people are sticking to the ban," says businessman Franz Limbach. Swimming there is life-threatening, also because cold groundwater currents could catch swimmers off guard and lead to circulatory collapses. Two swimming accidents have occurred in recent years. One man became a paraplegic after diving into shallow water. Anyone who dares to go in the water there and gets caught faces trespassing charges. But having private security personnel has worked well, according to Limbach, and the word has spread around. At other lakes, security guards are also being used to keep people away. In Wülfrath, North Rhine-Westphalia, one security service has already filed 47 criminal charges.
Swimming bans that are ignored are a common problem for cities, communities and private owners. When temperatures rise, people are attracted to the water. Outdoor pools are often overcrowded and man-made lakes are a tempting alternative. Often, there is a ban on swimming because of environmental protection, such as on Lake Sieglar. "There are many breeding grounds for birds that build their nests and these should not be disturbed," says city spokesman Peter Sonnet. “Ordnungsdienst” personnel (a branch of law enforcement charged with keeping public order) inspect the lake at irregular intervals. Anyone who does not adhere to the ban on swimming risks a fine. Swimming bans also apply to many other lakes in the Rhein-Sieg district, such as in Niederkassel on Mondorfer and Stockemer Lakes, in Bornheim on Lake Herseler and on Allner Lake in Hennef.
For Bonn, swimming bans apply in particular for the Siegmündung, a nature preserve in Bonn with waters running through it, for the Dornhecken Lake, the Blauen Lake as well as the Märchen Lake in Ennert near Oberkassel; all of these fall under environmental protection. Swimming is also strictly prohibited in the Kottenforst, where some ponds are located. "Especially in the area ofthe Siegmündung, the swimming ban is ignored in many places on warm days," said a spokesman for the city. In many places, there is also illegal camping.
The swimming ban at Dornheck Lake is also regularly ignored by people even though it is considered dangerous, according to the city. Those who swim where it is prohibited face a fine of 25 euros. Until now, the public order officers have mainly avoided collecting a fine and merely sent swimmers away.
People die again and again in man-made lakes
Despite the life-threatening risks, many do not shy away from diving into man-made lakes or other waters where swimming is strictly prohibited, and this leads to tragedy. In April, an 18-year-old drowned in a man-made lake in Neuss. In the Kaarster near Mönchengladbach, a four-year-old and a nineteen-year-old were killed this summer. Also in the Bonn region, there have been swimming fatalities. Almost three years ago, a 19-year-old from Hennef died in a swimming accident in Lake Allner - in September of the same year, a fisherman discovered a body on Rotter Lake in Troisdorf. The dead man was a 35-year-old from Troisdorf, and police suspected a swimming accident.
According to the German water rescue organization Deutschen Lebensrettungsgesellschaft (DLRG), a total of 404 people drowned nationwide last year, including 137 in lakes or ponds. However, DLRG can not say in how many of them swimming was forbidden. Water temperatures with suddenly icy cold spots or old machinery in dredging lakes pose dangers. Authorities emphasize that one should avoid areas that are prohibited. The danger of drowning there is many times higher than at a swimming pool with lifeguards.
(Orig. text: Andreas Dyck, Christian Schwerdtfeger; Translation: ck)