THE DEVASTATED mum of a Worcester student who tragically drowned in the city following a night out in September said her family are ‘still in shock’ some nine months after his death.
Tom Jones, 18, was found in the River Severn on September 28 last year, nine days after going missing following a night out with friends. His disappearance sparked a major community bid to find the stricken teenager who had just begun a primary teaching course at the University of Worcester.
Speaking to mark the Royal Life Saving Society UK – The Drowning Prevention Charity (RLSS UK) Drowning Prevention Week which runs until Monday (June 24), Vicki Jones and her husband Ian had donated £850 to support the charity’s drowning prevention projects.
Tom’s parents hope their heartbreak will inspire people to contact their local leisure centres to find out what activities are being run during Drowning Prevention Week so they can learn how to keep themselves, their friends and their families safe this summer.
“Nine months on, some days it still feels like it was yesterday, we think we are still in shock,” she said.
“We function and go through the motions on a day to day basis because there is no option. It’s difficult to socialise and try to be who we were before we lost Tom because we know we never will be.
“We have fantastic support around us from friends and family but even just the routine things take all our strength, we know things will never be the same again,” she added.
Following his tragic death, friends and well-wishers helped raise a staggering £9,000 through fund-raising and donations, which the family have split between charities and organisations who have supported them over the past nine months.
RLSS UK, Edwards Trust, SARA (Severn Area Rescue Association), UK Missing Person’s Unit, West Midlands Search and Rescue and Primrose Hospice all benefited from the money raised.
“RLSS UK was the first place I went to when it happened. I used to drive past the office all the time so I went onto their website to try and understand how it could have happened. Tom was a strong swimmer and I kept thinking, this couldn’t have happened, he couldn’t have drowned,” Vicki said.
“But the information on the website helped me understand. It showed me the affect alcohol can have on the body and how cold water can stop muscles from working properly. And the undercurrent where he fell in would have been so strong.
“I wasn’t in a good place but this initial contact with the charity made a difference. They’ve been so supportive since and I think working with them to deliver water safety messages, will help me in the future.”
“Tom was faced with lots of options that night, he could have walked back with his flat mates, he could have used the free transport that the University offered from town to the campus but he decided to walk back alone.
“If only he had taken the decision to return to the campus with the others or by using the transport, instead of choosing to walk home alone, this would never have happened,” she added.
Tom’s parents paid tribute to all those who raised cash following their son’s death, in particular Tom’s friend Harley Hetherington who set up the Just Giving page and Bromsgrove Sporting who held a memorial match.
AROUND 700 people drown in the UK and Ireland every year and thousands more are admitted to Accident and Emergency wards with injuries, some life changing, sustained when they survive drowning.
Drowning Prevention Week (DPW), now in its 6th year, will see hundreds of leisure centres, schools, businesses and organisations utilising RLSS UK’s water safety resources in their communities.
RLSS UK chief executive Robert Gofton, said: “Most people are surprised to learn that you are more likely to die from drowning than from being hit by a car or in a fire.”
Visit www.rlss.org.uk for more.