THE GRIEVING parents of a Worcester student who died after falling into the River Severn after a night out with friends have urged teenagers starting life at University to stay away from the water.
Ian and Vikki Jones made the heartfelt plea as they launched a new Portsafe board on Grandstand Road, close to the spot where their son Tom, 18, fell in while walking home from the city centre last September.
Tom had just started a primary teaching course at the University of Worcester when he went missing on September 19. His body was found nine days later.
His brave parents were on hand at an event on Monday (September 16) to launch a ‘throw board’ in memory of Tom.
The device has been supplied by safety innovators, Reach and Rescue, and enables passers by to call a number printed on the sign to release an extendable pole which can then be lowered into the water to safely pull a casualty to safety without unnecessary risk to the rescuer.
“It’s been an horrendous 12 months but to get to where we are today and have something like this in memory of Tom is a positive thing to do,” Vikki told the Observer.
“We’ve watched them demonstrate the equipment, it’s vitally important, it’s really easy to use and if anyone who finds themself in that unfortunate event of being in the water then anyone walking past can access the equipment and use it quite easily.”
Ian and Vikki spoke out as part of their support to the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s (RLSS UK) Don’t Drink and Drown campaign this week, which aims to cut down the number of alcohol-related drowning accidents that happen in the UK every year.
A staggering 70 young people, aged between 18 and 21, have drowned in the last five years whist under the influence, and 93 per cent of these were male.
“The advice we never gave Tom was to stay away from the water. We gave him lots of do’s and don’ts, he knew what was right and wrong but we never said to stay away from the water,” Ian said.
“As a parent, our message is don’t go anywhere near that river with a beer or without a beer. You can enjoy it because it’s idyllic but its so so dangerous.”
Today (Thursday) will mark a year since Tom went missing and mum Vikki revealed the family were dealing with his death on a day by day basis.
“Some days are more bearable than others but things will never be the same for us. We miss him beyond words. We had such a lot of support and to become involved with RLSS UK was a natural thing to do.”
“The people of Worcester have been magnificent to us and its vitally important we get this message about staying safe out as far and wide as we can,” Ian added.
Following Tom’s death, a collaborative effort is taking place across West Mercia, through the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Home and Dry Network to raise awareness of water safety. Worcester City Council and the University of Worcester have both pledged their support.
Robert Gofton, RLSS UK CEO, said: “A huge thanks must go to Reach and Recue, our new water safety partner, for their generous donation of a Portsafe board in Worcester.
Stuart Glover, marketing manager for Reach and Rescue Ltd said: “We’re ecstatic at becoming water safety partners with RLSS UK, as we share the charity’s vision of a future where death by accidental drowning is completely preventable.”