TREBLED: Suicide bids along Foyle -in 2007

DERRY's river rescue team has revealed that the number of people it has prevented from jumping into the River Foyle has almost trebled in the past year.

Figures released to the Derry Journal show that Foyle Search and Rescue prevented 103 people going into the water in 2007 compared to 36 in 2006.

The charity told the 'Journal' that six bodies were rescued from the river in 2007, twice the amount of 2006, and a total of 15 people were rescued from the water in 2007 compared to ten in 2006.

As the charity marks its 15th year in operation in Derry, Funding and Administration officer Leona Scott said that since the group started up 1141 potential suicides have been prevented.

"In the last 15 years our pagers have gone off 880 times, 52 bodies have been recovered and 90 people have been rescued," she said.

And although the number of people rescued from the river last year has increased, Ms Scott said that in the 18 months prior to the existence of Foyle Search and Rescue there were 25-30 deaths in the river.

"If Foyle Search and Rescue had not been established we could have possibly been looking at more deaths," she said.

"Not only do we patrol the river, we also work with families. At our base in Prehen Boathouse we have a support group for families who have been through a suicide."

Ms Scott revealed that volunteers patrol 2.5 miles of the river walkway between the two bridges, proactively dealing with vulnerable people who may be contemplating taking their own life.

Continuous contact

She added: "One team walks the riverbank, while a mobile unit continuously monitors the whole area between the Foyle and Craigavon bridges. Continuous radio contact is maintained between all teams and our communications room. A boat crew is constantly on stand-by on the river during the duty hours."

Last year volunteers to Foyle Search and Rescue gave 10,000 unpaid hours of their time.

"This is testimony to their dedication and commitment to the charity," she said."One year we had a team called out at 11.59 p.m. on New Year's Eve. But our team take this in their stride."

Currently Foyle Search and Rescue have 8 to 10 volunteers out on a duty night. However they need more people to join. The minimum age is 18 and all you need is a desire to help. You can become a volunteer for the rescue boat, shore patrol or even to help out at flag and bucket days.

Every penny donated to Foyle Search and Rescue is used to fuel the jeeps and boats.

To find out more about Foyle Search and Rescue or to join the support group you can contact 71313800.