First time Suffolk and Fire Rescue Service had used centre

TUESDAY'S tragic training exercise was the first time Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service had used the Lee Valley White Water Centre.

The venue – which hosted kayaking and canoeing events during London 2012 – was purpose-built for the Olympics.

The facility is now open to the public and a major leisure attraction for white water rafting.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said the training drill during which Alan Soards died would have been a water rescue exercise.

'It would have been used to simulate rescues in a fast-flowing river or flood water,' she said. 'It was the first time we had used it for Suffolk but I understand a number of crews are now using the facilities as a rapid simulation.'

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Lee Valley is 30km north of the Olympic Park, on the edge of the 1,000-acre River Lee Country Park – part of the Lee Valley Regional Park.

The centre has two separate courses – a 300m Olympic-standard competition course with a 5.5m descent, and a 160m intermediate/training course with a 1.6m descent.

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Both courses were built from scratch, along with a 10,000 square metre lake.

The centre opened in spring last year as the only new London 2012 venue that the public were able to use ahead of the Games. Following the Olympics, the venue is now owned, funded and managed by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.

A spokeswoman for the Centre said: 'Everyone at Lee Valley White Water Centre is very saddened about the news of firefighter Alan Soards' death and our thoughts are with Alan's family and friends. The incident took place during a fire and rescue service training exercise on the Legacy Course – the smaller of the two courses.

'These training exercises have taken place regularly since the centre opened and are not related to our public canoeing or rafting activities.'

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