Families of tragic teenagers speak out to back drowning prevention campaign

12 June 2014

Families of tragic teenagers speak out to back drowning prevention campaign

Royal Life Saving Society UK launches campaign ahead of summer along with hard-hitting short film.

The families of two teenage boys who lost their lives in separate incidents have spoken out to back the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s national campaign, Drowning Prevention Week.

The drowning prevention charity’s annual campaign aims to cut down the hundreds of deaths caused by accidental drowning across the UK every year and this year runs from June 21 to 29. For 2014 it is adding to its focus audience of primary school-aged children by targeting 11 to15-year-olds.

And the families of Richard Fellows and David Cullen, who both tragically drowned at the age of just 15-years-old, have thrown their support behind Drowning Prevention Week and the charity’s work.

Richard Fellows drowned on March 16th this year when he got into difficulties after swimming with two friends in river pool that forms part of the River Arrow in Redditch, Worcestershire.

Richard’s dad, also Richard, said: “It is hard to say how I feel, and the rest of the family. It hasn’t really sunk in yet, I can’t believe that he’s drowned. When he left that day everything was fine, we certainly would never have believed what we got. Treasure every moment like it’s your last.

“If he could warn people of the dangers, he would, which is why we want to raise awareness of our story through Drowning Prevention Week. If we can save just one life and prevent another family going through what we have it will be worth it.”

David Cullen tragically lost his life in Waterloo Lake, Roundhay Park, Leeds, on June 22nd, 2005. His schoolmate, 15-year-old Christopher Copland, also drowned in the incident. As the ninth anniversary of his death nears, and falls within Drowning Prevention Week, David’s family have spoken out to help raise awareness.

David’s sister Claire, 26, said: “We were all truly devastated the day David died. It is a day we will never forget. It was the hottest day of the year and it seemed like the longest day of our lives. It was so deeply distressing for everyone involved, and still is.

“We want to support Drowning Prevention Week as something has to be done to raise awareness of water safety and the dangers of lakes like the one in which we lost David, as well as other areas of water – all could take a life. We will also be visiting local schools, including David’s old high school, to pass on the important drowning prevention messages.”*

The move to target 11-15-year-olds, particularly boys, comes in a bid to help avoid a tragic repeat of last summer when more than 30 people lost their lives to drowning in just seven weeks, many of them young men and boys, and it is hoped a new short film produced by the charity will help drive the message home to thrill seeking young people.

The hard-hitting film, produced by Chrome Productions and Artem SFX, focuses on a young boy who meets his friends near a river and takes part in a dare which has tragic consequences. It is also accompanied by new resources aimed at the high risk age group, including school lesson plans and assembly briefings.

RLSS UK Campaign Manager, Karen Welsh, said: “Firstly, we are extremely grateful to the families of David and Richard for telling their stories and backing our campaign, we hope that people will listen and understand such a tragedy could happen to anyone.

“During this year’s campaign we are hoping to reach this key age-group, most at risk of drowning, as well as continue to target younger children before they reach the age they will be most vulnerable.

“Young people are more likely to take risks while out with friends and be tempted to cool off and spend time in rivers, quarries and reservoirs during the summer months. We hope the film will strike a chord and make people think twice, we do not want a repeat of last summer’s tragedies.”

Each year, Drowning Prevention Week drives home water safety messages throughout a targeted week of activities, demonstrating how to stay safe and have fun near water. It also serves to raise money for the RLSS UK’s drowning prevention initiatives.

Last year, thousands of primary schools, leisure centres and community groups delivered water safety lessons or events to four-10-year-olds across the UK.

Royal Life Saving Society UK Chief Executive, Di Steer added: “We all know water is fun and we do not want to scare young people from ever going near it. But it is important for them to know that frivolity can very quickly turn to fatality if great care is not taken.

“Young people often believe they are immortal and take unnecessary risks. We want to make them aware of dangers they may not have thought of and stop them from making blind decisions that could be life changing or even life ending. We urge as many people as possible to share our messages and get involved in Drowning Prevention Week in any way they can.”

Accidental drowning causes around 400 UK deaths every year, the equivalent of one person drowning every 20 hours. Thousands more suffer near drowning experiences, some resulting in life changing injuries. Drowning is still the third highest cause of accidental death in children in the UK.

Money raised from last year’s Drowning Prevention Week campaign was used to set up a new support forum and counselling service for families affected by drowning or near drowning.

To download the host of resources that have been produced and to find out more, click here or contact dpw@rlss.org.uk. To see and share the film click here, also please get involved in our Thunderclap on social media, sign up and we can get our message out simultaneously to kick off Drowning Prevention Week. Simply click here to join.

 

For all media enquires please contact Porcha Treanor – Communications Manager:
Email: porchatreanor@rlss.org.uk
Tel: 01789 774 495
Mobile: 07884 498 325