By Bill Heaney
A teenage boy has died after getting into difficulty while swimming in freezing water in the River Leven during the heatwave near Balloch, Loch Lomond.
A major search was launched on Friday after a report of concern for a person in the water.
Divers, the coastguard, the fire service and the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat were involved in the operation after the alarm was raised just after 19:00.
Emergency services recovered a young male from the water who was pronounced dead at the scene. He is still to be officially identified.
The focus of the search was the water near the pier at Balloch Country Park, where the fast flowing Leven joins the Loch.
Police say formal identification has still to take place, but the family of a 16-year-old boy has been informed.
There are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances and a report will be sent to the procurator fiscal.
As Balloch prepared to be mobbed again on Sunday, Police Scotland continues to have a ‘Safe Summer Plan’ developed with partners to ensure visitors to the Balloch and Balloch Park areas safely enjoy their visit.
Officers are working with British Transport Police, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, West Dunbartonshire Council, and transport providers, to allocate and distribute resources, along with providing a visible presence in key areas.
Balloch Park is especially popular with families and young people, particularly in the good weather.
Police say they want people to enjoy these open spaces safely, with everyone looking out for each other, but “disruptive, disorderly, and criminal behaviour, will not be tolerated”.
Chief Inspector Coleen Wylie told BBC Scotland: “We want visitors to the Balloch area to enjoy themselves but we want this to be done safely.
“Byelaws prevent the consumption of alcohol in public places, however we have seen a number of young adults and teenagers in particular, coming to the area to spend the day drinking.
“This can lead to anti-social behaviour which spoils the experiences of everyone else, and will not be tolerated. Anyone involved in criminality will be robustly dealt with.
“Members of the public may see an increased police presence in the Balloch area. This is for your safety.
“Working with partners we want to keep the area safe for everyone to enjoy and ask for your cooperation in this. Parents and guardians; please speak to your young people and encourage responsible behaviour.
“It is also not acceptable for over 18s to buy alcohol for underage consumption and there are many dangers, especially around water, that intoxication can lead to.”
British Transport Police (BTP) Inspector Alasdair McWhirter said: “Through partnership working with Police Scotland and ScotRail we’re working tirelessly to deter criminality and anti-social behaviour on the railway network, and we’re stepping up our patrols in West Dunbartonshire and Ayrshire using targeted operations.
“As passenger numbers on the railway increase as Covid restrictions lift, we will have more officers at key routes and stations across the network, including Balloch and other stations to ensure the safety of everyone using it.
“We want people to look after themselves this summer and enjoy themselves, and we ask everyone to be sensible and considerate of other passengers. If we do get called out to anti-social behaviour incidents we will take action as the railway needs to be a safe place for everyone using the network.
“Becoming a victim of crime remains extremely low in the area and the majority of people using the railway these places have been enjoying the good weather responsibly.
“Passengers continue to be our eyes and ears and they can help us by reporting crimes and concerns by texting 61016.”
Ben Doran, ScotRail Head of Safety & Risk Assurance, said: “We are delighted to be working with Police Scotland on the Safe Summer Plan.
“We know there is an increase in the numbers of people using our services to get to the Balloch area during the summer months and we work closely with British Transport Police to keep Scotland’s Railway as safe as possible for our customers and our staff.
“If anyone observes any anti-social behaviour on our trains or at stations, they should contact the BTP and report those responsible.”
Chief Inspector Wylie added: “There is more traffic on our roads and everyone should be aware of other road users. Please park responsibly and make sure a clear route is available at all times and you are not blocking access, especially for emergency service vehicles.
“We ask that you always take your litter home and leave no trace of your visit. If you have any concerns, please speak to any police officer or report this to us via 101. In an emergency, always dial 999.”
The patrols will also make sure that wildlife and habitats are protected.
Chief Inspector Wylie said: “The weather has been fantastic and it has seen an increase in visitors, but there has been an element that has caused disorder and anti-social behaviour.
“Unfortunately we’ve seen large groups of young people drinking alcohol, which has led to this disorder.
“This year has been challenging because we’ve had a prolonged period of good weather, people want to get out and about post-lockdown, and people are not going abroad this year.”
As well as pockets of disorder and violence, the officer said there had been “water safety issues”, including the death of the teenager.
British Transport Police said it has seen increased anti-social behaviour on the railway in West Dunbartonshire – with 36 incidents at Balloch.
Meanwhile, officers in Balloch are appealing for witnesses following a serious assault in the town.
Around 3.30pm on Saturday 17 July a large scale disturbance happened within Balloch park close to the beach area.
A 19-year-old man suffered a serious head injury and was taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital for treatment before being released. The suspect is described as a male aged between 16 and 20.
Detective Constable Geoff McKillop from CID said: “There were hundreds of people within the park at the time of the incident. Some may have videoed or photographed the incident on mobile phones, and may have footage with important evidence on it.
“I am looking for anyone who witnessed the disturbance, and anybody that took videos or photos within the park at that time to get in touch by calling 101, quoting incident reference number 2454 of 17 July.”