Foyle Search and Rescue have appealed to the Derry public to help protect the life rings along the River Foyle.
The charity’s Emergency Response Team co-ordinator, Paddy Wilson, was speaking after his team recovered five rings after they were thrown into the Foyle.
Two of those rings were thrown from the Peace Bridge, the remainder from the river banks.
Mr. Wilson said: “Since the withdrawal of our emergency vehicle lights our response times have doubled.
In the last month we have been called out during busy afternoon traffic for example and only for the fact we already had the boat on the water the delay may have proved a fatal one.”
“The fact that our response times have been affected means it is even more important that these life rings, which are life saving equipment, are not tampered with. Just leave them alone, they are of vital importance to the Derry public.”
Already in 2011 the charity has successfully rescued 17 people, and recovered the remains of two people who lost their lives after entering the water., one from the Foyle Bridge one from the Quayside. Foyle Search and Rescue have responded to 43 emergency call outs since January. Four of those emergency call outs were to the Peace Bridge, though only one person entered the water from it.
Mr. Wilson added “We are working with local MLAs to get our emergency lighting back but with or without those, people need to realise that they can’t be throwing rings into the water.
“I would ask the Derry public to ring the police or ourselves if they see anyone throwing the rescue equipment into the water.”