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Canal safety work honour

PUBLISHED: 14:39 28 January 2009 | UPDATED: 16:04 25 August 2010

THE fiancée of a hero who died saving a child from drowning has vowed to continue her fight to make canals safer.

THE fiancée of a 'hero' who died saving a child from drowning has vowed to continue her fight to make canals safer.

Hema Shah, 37, helplessly witnessed her partner Leigh Pitt drown outside their home by Broadwater Dock, West Thamesmead, in June 2007. She has since fought a tireless campaign to improve safety in Thamesmead's canal network

After the drowning liferings were put around the canal and Ms Shah has spearheaded a safety education programme for children which has placed children's books on safety in local school. She was invited to 10 Downing Street on January 14 in recognition of her efforts.

However, there is no legal necessity for the private company, to improve safety to public authority standards. Mr Pitt, 30, dived into Broadwater Dock to save a nine-year-old boy who was later pulled out by passers-by. A police officer then tried to save Mr Pitt, who fell unconscious, but with nothing to hang on to and no lifering available he was forced to give up.

Last December Mr Pitt, a keen angler, was posthumously awarded for his bravery by the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust of Great Britain and Ireland.

Despite Tilfen Land's new signs and safety equipment, Miss Shah said the land developer and investment company must alter its Grade II listed canal physically.

She says: "Tilfen Land, owner of the canal, needs to submit a planning application to change the canal physically, I'm sure they can come up with a solution."

The finance analyst met her 'funny, extrovert' partner working at SG Management.

She said: "It's like it happened yesterday. We were going to marry in five months time, have children and get a place, and it's all gone in one day. I don't think people realise how hard it is not to say goodbye.

"No matter how strong I may seem to people, at the end of the day I have lost everything."

A spokesman for Tilfen Land said: "Tilfen Land has previously responded to concerns raised by Hema Shah. We take matters of health and safety very seriously and continue to review and assess the risks on all our property."

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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