FAMILY members and friends who have lost loved ones to accidental drowning continue to support Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) with its mission to stop incidents of this type.
GMFRS has launched its latest water safety campaign, while supporting Royal Life Saving Society’s Drowning Prevention Week, which began on Saturday, June 19, and will run to Friday, June 25, 2021.
Four families whose lives were turned upside-down after losing a special person joined forces with GMFRS in summer 2020 – reaching out far and wide to save others ever having to experience the same heartache as them.
This summer will see those who backed the hard-hitting campaign of 2020 return to social media, where their personal stories of losing loved ones will be shared in a bid to prevent people swimming and jumping into open water.
Young boxers who train at GMFRS’ boxing club in Moss Side are also backing the campaign – helping to reinforce messages and reach other young people.
This year’s campaign will also see digital displays utilised across Greater Manchester over the summer in popular locations in a bid to help young people stay safe around open water.
The campaign comes as figures reveal that 166 people accidentally drowned in open water in England last year – an increase of 13% from 2019.
Since June 2016, GMFRS firefighters have been called to 38 fatal water incidents. Sadly, a number of those who drowned were young men who got into difficulty after jumping into open water on a hot day to cool off over the summer months, however, these incidents can happen at any time.
Firefighters from across the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester take part in local water training, where they talk to passers-by about the dangers of open water and so people can see what is involved in a water rescue.
Leeanne Bartley is one family member who is working with GMFRS and supporting the latest water safety campaign. Her 18-year-old son, Mark Allen, drowned in Debdale Park in June 2018 after going into the water. Leeanne, her husband David, and Mark’s eldest sister, Lauren Allen, each shared their experiences of what it is like to lose a loved one to drowning and living without Mark.
Natalie Lawson is also supporting the campaign. Her 16-year-old son, Paul, drowned in June 2017 after he went swimming with his friends in Greenbooth Reservoir. It was a hot day and the teenagers thought it would be a good idea to go into the water to cool off. Natalie bravely shared her story with GMFRS to help raise awareness of just how dangerous open water, such as reservoirs, can be.
Paul’s friends – Ben Hough and Jordan Yates – also shared their stories of losing a close friend. The pair continue to urge people not to go into open water as they talk about how their lives changed forever.
Also backing the campaign is Chris Jordan, uncle of Jack Pullen, who drowned in July 2016 at the age of 16 in the River Etherow in Broadbottom, near Hyde. Since Jack’s death, Chris set up the Jack Pullen Foundation, and more recently has developed interactive sessions on his website in a bid to educate more people about the dangers of open water.
Chris and Jack’s sister, Fallon, talked with GMFRS about how they lost Jack and the life-changing impact it had on their family.
Dylan Ramsay drowned almost a decade ago (July 3, 2011) in a quarry near to Chorley, Lancashire, at 13-years-old. Dylan’s mum, Beckie Ramsay, has been campaigning to raise awareness of the dangers of open water since that time and has worked with GMFRS and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service over the years. Beckie has also shared her story of losing Dylan as part of GMFRS’ campaign.
Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester for Policing, Crime and Fire, Bev Hughes, said:“Following on from the success of GMFRS’ water safety campaign last summer, we are pleased to launch the latest initiative in Greater Manchester to help raise awareness of the dangers of open water and prevent further accidental drownings.
“Such campaigns wouldn’t be as powerful without the involvement of those who have sadly lost loved ones, and we are extremely grateful for the support and contributions from everyone involved – you truly are making a difference by sharing your personal stories.”
GMFRS Area Manager Paul Duggan said: “Even strong swimmers can suffer from Cold Water Shock and it can kill you in just 60 seconds. You also never know how unpredictable under-water currents can be, or what is lurking beneath the surface – people have drowned after getting tangled up in undergrowth and other things hiding in the water.
“We don’t want to stop people having fun, though safety is key here as we continue with our mission to educate young people and their parents or carers of the dangers that come with going into open water, especially during the summer months as we spend more time outdoors.”
Water safety messages are reinforced through #SummerSafe – a partnership campaign between GMFRS, Greater Manchester Police (GMP), Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and the 10 local authorities of Greater Manchester.
Follow campaign activity from June 23, and throughout the summer on GMFRS’ social media channels: Twitter @manchesterfire, Instagram: manchesterfire, and Facebook: GMFRS. #WaterSafety and #DrowningPrevention will be used during the campaign.