Location where dog went missing is 'death trap'
A stretch of water where a dog went missing has been described as a "death trap" and there are fears a child could drown unless improved safety measures are put in place.
More than 4,000 people have supported a petition calling for improved safety barriers along the River Wheelock near Sandbach Flashes.
Goldendoodle Bruce fell into the water on Friday afternoon and despite a search throughout the weekend has not been found.
It is thought he could have been sucked into pipes, which are understood to act as an overflow when the river level rises and discharge the water into the Flashes.
The pipes structure supports the Crewe to Manchester railway line.
There is fencing along the stretch where Bruce fell in but not enough for dogs to get through, those who helped in the search said.
Bruce belonged to Dean Barnton and his fiancée Kate, who was walking him on Friday afternoon when he fell in.
Firefighters were sent to the scene at around 6.45pm and conducted a search of the area on water rafts using a thermal imaging camera but were unable to locate the dog.
In a social media post on Sunday, Mr Barnton thanked those who helped search for Bruce, who would have been one year old this week.
"We are overwhelmed by the support we have received from everyone," he said.
Referring to the pipes he added: "We now strongly think that Bruce didn't make it out the other side and sadly got stuck underwater. We tried a few different tests to see if anything would pass through and nothing did.
"The correct fencing needs fitting on the path side straight away because of how dangerous the current is in the river.
"The firefighter and a drainage worker have all said the same thing about the area. They can't believe how unsafe it is. A small child could lean over the rail and fall in very easily. The current of the river, even though it doesn't look strong, would be capable of pulling a grown adult underwater and into the pipes.
"We will keep pushing to make sure improved fencing is installed and signs are put up to inform people of the danger. If one good thing can come from this it is that it will never happen again."
Mike Lo Bosco, who runs Doggy Day Care in Wheelock, was among those helping in the search for Bruce throughout the weekend.
The dog care business also launched a petition calling for better safety fencing.
Mr Lo Bosco, who also put netting on the existing barrier at the weekend in an effort to make it safer along with warning signs, said what happened to Bruce was "like something out of a Stephen King book".
"People were still clinging to the hope that he went through the pipe and survived. We did our own test to send things through but the pipes were full.
"It took everyone a while to realise the pipe we think Bruce was sucked into was completely submerged.
"People think there is enough headroom in the pipe for air space but they are wrong. It's not until you look at the other end of the pipe and you realise that's not possible."
He added: "Everyone I was with at the scene, from cave rescuers to United Utilities workers, you could see the look on their faces when they realised the situation with the water current beneath the surface."
Mr Lo Bosco explained that someone had attempted to extend the fencing but it did not sit flush and Bruce could still get through.
Explaining that Bruce had slipped into the river, he said: "There was a splash and he was gone. As soon as he hit the water he went under.
"Within the hour we were all there searching for him. More than 30 people were helping. We were all calling his name and checking the riverbank."
Mr Lo Bosco and others were at the site from 6am on Saturday to continue the search, which went on throughout the day.
The 38-year-old returned on Sunday to try to make the existing barrier safer by wrapping mesh around it.
Mr Lo Bosco said: "I had to go back and do something with the fence. It does not bear thinking about what could happen next. I want it to be an eyesore so people take note. It's only temporary but it needs to be sorted properly."
He continued: "If a child got through the fence and fell in they would not stand a chance. The thought has chilled me to the core."
He said it was not the first time a dog has gone missing after falling into the water at the same location
He explained: "A black Labrador went missing a year ago and the body was found two weeks later. We found out it's happened a number of times over the years. In 2014, a dog called Bryan went in and never came out."
Mrs Lo Bosco said: "We want to make sure this is the final time such a tragedy happens. We are just asking for adequate fencing.
"The existing barriers are like scaffolding bars that children and dogs could get through. We want better safety fencing and signs that say there is a risk of death.
"We understand Network Rail are responsible for the pipes. Workers in high-vis jackets were down there on Sunday assessing the situation and cutting back branches that were overhanging the river.
"I've been in touch with Cheshire East Council's leader Sam Corcoran, who said he would look into the situation, and I've tried to contact MP Fiona Bruce.
"The petition is calling for better safety measures but time is of the essence. I want a plan of action now. It needs to be strong enough to keep adults safe as well - it needs to be proper high security fencing."
Sandbach Fire Station wrote on Twitter on Friday: "We have been searching the area, however for your own safety we are strongly advising people not to go near the water, or to conduct their own searches, due to it being dangerous."
Network Rail said that it had improved safety signs and fencing in the past but would look at making further improvements along with better drainage.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are sad to hear of a dog going missing near to our culverts under the Manchester to Crewe line and our sympathy goes to the owner involved.
“This weekend’s very heavy rainfall meant the river was in flood and the culverts were overwhelmed causing strong currents. Signage advising dog owners to always keep their dogs on a short lead and extra safety fencing was installed after reports of a similar incident in 2015.
“Our teams have visited the site in recent days and we’re looking at how these warnings can be made clearer and fencing further improved.
“With flooding events like this becoming more frequent due to climate change, we are developing plans for long-term drainage improvements by the railway at this location.”