Tragic drownings prompt safety warning in Bristol

13 March 2017

The UK’s drowning prevention charity is stepping up its water safety activity in Bristol following the tragic drownings of two young men.

 The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) had already targeted the city as an area of concern and through events, social media and links with local organisations, it currently works to educate students and young people about the dangers of walking home past water, especially alone.

An event at Thekla nightclub last December as part of RLSS UK’s Don’t Drink and Drown campaign saw local volunteers reach over 700 students with water safety advice, and the charity is now planning similar events at other waterfront nightclubs in a bid to cut down drowning accidents.

A body, believed to be that of missing 26-year-old Lewis Ball, was discovered on February 27 at the city’s floating harbour, just weeks after 24-year-old Deacon Wilkins was found in the same stretch of water.

Both men disappeared after leaving nightclubs in the early hours of the morning, each incident prompting extensive searches on land and water by police, family and friends.

RLSS UK Chief Executive Officer Di Steer, who lives in Bristol, said: “We are extremely saddened at the tragic news of these deaths and the senseless loss of such young, promising lives. It is heart breaking that what can start out as a fun night out with friends could end in such devastation.”

 These recent tragedies highlight the importance of bringing water safety to the forefront of young people’s minds, and the RLSS UK will continue to educate people of the dangers.”

 Alan Sutherland, RLSS UK Ambassador for the area said he and the local volunteers the charity so greatly depends on, will continue to promote water safety to as many young people as possible.

“Our heart truly goes out to the families and friends of these two young men and we will work tirelessly to make sure other families don’t suffer the same trauma.”

RLSS UK is the leading provider of water safety and drowning prevention education and is the UK’s drowning prevention charity. When on a night out, the organisation offers this advice:

  Stay Safe

  • Don’t walk home near water, you might fall in
  • Look out for your friends, make sure they get home safely
  • Don’t enter the water if you have been drinking
  • Alcohol seriously affects your ability to get yourself out of trouble


Effects of alcohol

  • Alcohol lowers inhibitions, leading to impaired judgment which means you are more likely to take risks and get into trouble
  • Alcohol limits muscle ability making simple movements much harder
  • Alcohol slows down your reactions making it more difficult to get yourself out of trouble
  • Alcohol numbs the senses particularly sight, sound and touch, making swimming very difficult


Deakon Wilkins from Weston-super-Mare was last seen leaving a nightclub in Bristol in the early hours of Saturday 14 January before his body was eventuallyfound on February 5 at the floating harbour near Bristol Temple Meads Station.

Lewis Ball disappeared while on a night out with friends just after 3am on Sunday 5 February.

The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) is the drowning prevention charity.  Around 400 people drown in the UK every year and the RLSS UK aims to prevent drowning through water safety education.

Through its trading subsidiary, IQL UK, there are more than 90,000 RLSS UK Pool Lifeguards in the UK trained in the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ). Around 95 per cent of all pool lifeguards are trained by the RLSS UK.

RLSS UK awards and programmes teach a range of lifesaving skills ranging from life support (CPR) to water survival and rescue skills. Programmes include Rookie Lifeguard (for eight to12-year–olds), Survive and Save (for 12 years+) and Save a Baby’s Life (a free course aimed at parents and carers of young children).

The RLSS UK (then the Life Saving Society) was formed in 1891. In 1904, as there was great support for the organisation from the Royal Family, the society was granted permission to use the Royal title and became the Royal Life Saving Society.

Drowning Prevention Week is the national campaign run by the Royal Life Saving Society UK to cut down the number of accidental drowning that occur each year and support families affected by drowning. The next campaign will run from June 16 – 26, 2017.

For more information and interview/spokesperson opportunities contact Karen Welsh on 07969 992416.