Four taken to hospital as young children rescued from Walsall canal

Four people were taken to hospital after two young children plunged into water in a succession of incidents at a notorious algae-covered canal.

The canal area is covered in a fine layer of algae meaning some people are not aware it is water
The canal area is covered in a fine layer of algae meaning some people are not aware it is water

A boy and a girl were among six people who ended up in the water in Walsall town centre on Tuesday afternoon.

The incidents happened at around 1.30pm at Walsall Basin, part of which is covered in a layer of algae which looks like astroturf or grass.

Police officers and paramedics, including the Hazardous Area Response Team, were sent to the scene at Gallery Square but the extent of any injuries has not yet been confirmed.

Donna Harrison, who works at Bar 10 next to the canal, said a chain of accidents was started when a man fell into the water near the Piri Fino restaurant.

She said: "To start with, there was the guy who fell into the water at Piri Fino first then, literally three minutes later, a little girl fell into the water.

"We went out to help her out of the water and then saw a little boy go in, followed by three adults who went in to help him out."

An ambulance was still at the scene near the canal nearly an hour after the incidents

Ms Harrison said people had needed rescuing from the water in recent weeks, including 12 in the last week and nine in the week before that.

She said: "People are falling in because it looks like astroturf and they think they can walk on it.

"To me, there's not sufficient enough warning about the danger here and I have been asking for railings to be put up, as well as a lifebuoy in here, in the Costa Coffee and at Piri Fino."

A spokesman for the Canal and River Trust said lots of weeds had already been removed but that a team would be out with volunteers to clear the basin in the next few days.

There are bollards next to the water for docking boats but no barriers or fencing blocking people from accessing the water.

Last year a buoy was installed in a bid to raise awareness about the depth of the water after a succession of incidents. Numerous people have fallen into the water over the years, while in 1999 pensioner Sidney Drummond drove into the canal after mistaking it for a flooded car park and had to climb out of his sunroof.

Lynn Allen, who works as a barista maestro at Costa Coffee next to the New Art Gallery, put a roll of black and yellow tape out on the bollards along the canal after the latest incidents on Tuesday.

She said: "One of the children was a boy who looked about four to five years old, while the other was a little girl, who I think was about seven or eight.

How the canal area looks without algae. Photo: Google

"I think their mother, who was pregnant, went into the water, as well as another man, and they've all been looked after by the ambulance, with the kids still inside it.

"To me, there should be a chain around here which stops people going towards the water and I want to see the Canal and Rivers Trust do something about it."

West Midlands Ambulance Service said the Hazardous Area Response Team was sent along with an ambulance and a paramedic officer. Six patients were assessed with two discharged at the scene and four taken to hospital for further treatment,

A spokesman for the Canal and River Trust said: "We’re sorry to hear that a group of people have fallen into the Walsall Basin – this must have been an awful experience for everyone involved and we hope they all make a quick recovery from their ordeal.

"To improve safety, and to remind people to stay away from the edge, a safety buoy has been installed in the middle of the basin warning local people that the water is deep and to take care when walking next to the basin.

"We are aware that there is a section of the basin covered in weed making it look like thick grass, hiding the water underneath. Although a lot of the weed has already been removed, dealing with the weed is an ongoing issue as it grows quickly and is difficult to control. A team from Canal and River Trust along with local volunteers will be out in the basin removing more of the weed in the next few days."

West Midlands Police has been contacted for comment.

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