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Thousands back calls for new safety measures on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Newbury where toddler died at the weekend

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A petition was launched after the tragic death of a toddler at the weekend

MORE than 2,000 people have now signed a petition calling for extra safety measures around a Newbury weir where a toddler died this weekend.

The three-year-old boy died when he and his mother fell into the water by Ash Bridge at around 2pm on Saturday (March 13).

The boy and his mother were rescued and taken to hospital but Thames Valley Police confirmed yesterday (Sunday) that the little boy had died.

Since then resident Briony Palmer has created a petition “in hopes of bringing new safety measures into place for the sake of families, and all other pedestrians, who regularly use the walkways surrounding the Canal in Newbury”.

On the Change.org page she said it was clear “we need a strong barrier in place to prevent accidents like this happening in the future”.

In a message on the page she added: “The weir at Victoria Park, by Ash Bridge, has long been recognised as a potential danger zone, with turbulent waters and a strong current rolling into the canal.

“Other than a brick wall behind the small bridge walking directly over it, and some short railings backing off of this, there are no other safety measures in place to prevent one falling into the weir.

“Having grown up in Newbury, I know that one can reach the water with just a few steps down the steep drop from the footpath. The weather yesterday was windy, the water level has risen as it often does, and there are often fallen trees and other objects in the water which could prove to be a further risk of drowning.

“This is particularly important when you consider the fact that this weir is within a minute's walk of the children's play area, and is within feet of the footpaths on either side.”

She called for a extension of the fencing that surrounds the weir itself and has urged residents to support her campaign.

At the time of writing 2,082 people had signed the online petition, which you can find here.

The tragic incident on Saturday afternoon sparked a large-scale emergency response, with police officers, fire crews, paramedics, the police helicopter and the air ambulance all rushing to the scene.

Officers confirmed the death of the boy in a Facebook post on Sunday and added: “The child's mother has been discharged from hospital.

"The death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious and a file will be prepared for the coroner.

"Our thoughts are with the child's family at this incredibly difficult time.

"Thames Valley Police is not currently in a position to release the child’s identity."

Leader of West Berkshire Council Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) said: "Our deepest condolences and thoughts go out to the family at this heart-breaking time.

"This incident seems to have occurred near to Ash Bridge next to the sluice on the canal. There is a public footpath and (according to Land Registry) the land and sluice are owned by the Canal and River Trust.

"This is a tragic incident which will be fully investigated by the emergency services. We will work with the police and the Canal and River Trust to fully understand what happened and how future incidents could be prevented.

"At this moment in time we are not aware of any similar incidents or near misses at this location but anything we can do to increase awareness of water safety will be looked into with the Canal and River Trust."

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