Bereaved family joins campaign to prevent future drownings

Owen Jenkins, 12, died while trying to assist friends in difficulty at a weir.

25 July 2022

The family of a boy who died after getting into trouble in open water is backing a campaign to prevent future drownings.

The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), set up in 2004 following a government review into water safety, has launched the Respect The Water campaign following a spate of open water deaths during the recent heatwave, where temperatures reached a record 40.3C.

More than 50 organisations have united together to support the campaign, launched to coincide with World Drowning Prevention Day on Monday, including The National Fire Chiefs Council, RNLI, HM Coastguard, the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents.

At least 14 people have died in open water in recent weeks including a woman in her 60s who got into trouble off the coast of Norfolk on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile research by the Water Incident Database (Waid) found that 46% of accidental drownings in the UK took place during the height of summer last year.

Beeston Lock death
Owen Jenkins who died in the River Trent at Beeston Weir after assisting girls in difficulty (Owen Jenkins/PA)

Nicola Jenkins, 46, from Nottingham lost her 12-year-old son Owen after he drowned trying to rescue friends who got into trouble in the water at Beeston Weir in July 2017.

He saw his friends struggling and went into the water, reaching the girl in most difficulty and taking her to safety before returning to try to save the other.

Ms Jenkins said: “I’ll never get over what happened to Owen that day at Beeston Weir, he was sweet, innocent and selfless and it is consistent with his character that he risked his own life to save his friend.

“No parent should ever have to go through the pain of losing their child, words cannot describe how much we miss him.

“He didn’t know what to do when the girls got into difficulty.

“He thought that he was helping by going into the water to save them.

“Had Owen and the girls known this then he might be here today.

“It’s just so important that people remember, if you get into trouble in the water, call 999 and make sure the emergency services are alerted.”

The campaign tells people to Float To Live by leaning back and gently moving your arms and legs, rather than “swimming hard” or thrashing about.

RNLI flip flops
Lifeguards Michaela Clarricoats and Sam Woodward on Margate Beach (Aaron Chown/PA)

It recommends floating until you can control your breathing, only then should you call 999 or 112 for help or swim to safety.

Simon Chrisp, 46, from Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, whose son Evan, 17, almost died after drifting out to sea at Beadnell Bay while on holiday with friends in 2017, said the Float-To-Live advice saved his child’s life.

Evan’s friends made it to shore but he had been pushed so far out by a strong current that he lost sight of the beach.

He had seen a RNLI video which outlined Float To Live and he was able to make his way to a moored yacht, from which he was rescued shortly after.

Mr Chrisp said: “I have to thank the RNLI.

“It was incredibly difficult to not get into the water and try to save Evan myself, but ultimately that advice along with Evan floating when he got into difficulty, saved our lives that day.”

According to Waid, 62% of accidental drownings happen in inland waters such as rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries.

The campaign also advises against trying to help someone who is drowning and instead call 999 or 112 as soon as you see someone in trouble.

Throwing them an object that floats is also recommended.

The NWSF’s UK Drowning Prevention Strategy aims to reduce accidental drowning fatalities in the UK by 50% by 2026.

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