AS spring approaches and the weather warms up, firefighters are reminding the public of the hazards of swimming in bodies of water such as the Gullet Quarry in the Malvern Hills, scene of two fatalities three years ago.

As part of the national Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week, Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service is sending the message that even the strongest swimmers are at risk in open water such as the quarry lake.

In summer 2013 Justas Juzenas, 22, of Ross-on-Wye, and Russell O’Neill, 17, of Worcester, died at Gullet Quarry after getting into trouble in the lake. The deaths happened within a week of each other.

Station Commander Alan Haley said: “With the weather getting warmer, we are keen to highlight water safety awareness to children, their parents and as wide a cross-section of the local community as possible.

"We would like to highlight the dangers of open water and encourage people, whatever their age, to take extra care.

"People do not understand that even the strongest swimmers can find themselves in difficulty, as the cold water causes muscles to cramp. There is then a strong possibility that they cannot swim due to muscular cramps which can then lead to drowning.”

But it's not only swimmers who are in danger, as 44 per cent of people who drowned in 2014 had no intention of entering the water.

Trips, falls or underestimating the risks associated with being near water meant that 302 people lost their lives.

Dawn Whittaker of the Chief Fire Officers Association said: “Most people would be shocked to hear that those people drowning just happen to be near water such as runners, walkers and fisherman. They are unaware of the risks and are totally unprepared for the scenario of ending up in the water. By highlighting this issue and making sure simple safety messages reach them we hope to reduce the number of these needless deaths."

Swimming in the Gullet Quarry is forbidden under the Malvern Hills Conservators' bye-laws, and breaching these regulations can attract a fine of up to £500.