National charity, the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), has launched its annual water safety education campaign – with a crucial message for parents this summer.

Marking the beginning of its Drowning Prevention Week campaign, RLSS UK has released a powerful video which features Vanessa Abbess and Stephanie Williams, mothers of Joe Abbess and Sunnah Khan, the children who tragically lost their lives to drowning on Bournemouth Beach in May last year.

One year on, the video sees the mothers talk openly about the events of that tragic day and the loss of their children. The key message behind the video is to spread awareness that drowning can happen to anyone, regardless of swimming ability – and that every child and parent needs to be educated on water safety.

Speaking about the video, Matt Croxall, Charity Director at RLSS UK, said: “We hope this all-important video educates and resonates with parents across the UK and urges them to have the water safety conversation with their children. We can’t thank Vanessa and Stephanie enough for their incredible bravery speaking out and sharing their tragic stories with others, in the hopes to make a difference and save even just one life.”

Stephanie Williams said: “Although difficult to speak about, we wanted to do the video to honour Sunnah and Joe’s lives and highlight just how important it is to be aware of the dangers of water. If anything I say reaches even one person and changes something for the better, I’d like to.”

Vanessa Abbess added: "I hope that through sharing the painful story of Joe and Sunnah, we are able to reach as many people as possible – and potentially save lives by educating others on the importance of water safety, because it can really happen to anyone!"

With England also reporting an alarming increase in child drowning fatalities, RLSS UK is urging everyone to learn the Water Safety Code though its video animation as part of its annual Drowning Prevention Week campaign. Targeted at young children and families, Drowning Prevention Week aims to ensure as many people as possible are equipped with vital lifesaving knowledge to allow them to enjoy water safely this summer.

RLSS UK has shared data[1] that tragically shows a total of 125 children have accidentally lost their lives to drowning in the last five years – with 26 drownings taking place in 2023 alone. The data also shows that 66% of these drownings were teenagers, those aged between 13 and 17 years.

Matt Croxall added: “The alarming increase in tragic child drowning deaths in England also highlights just how important it is that families are aware of the importance of water safety and have the correct knowledge to make the right decisions around water.

“With warmer summer days on the horizon, Drowning Prevention Week brings water safety to the forefront of everyone’s mind and works to equip families with the appropriate skills and knowledge to enjoy water safely during the summer months and beyond.”

During the 2023 campaign, RLSS UK materials and resources were used to educate over 1.85 million children in vital water safety knowledge and skills.

For Drowning Prevention Week, RLSS UK has a range of free new and updated educational resources available on its website for children, including lesson plans for schools and downloadable resources for parents, as well as an engaging video animation to support families in learning the Water Safety Code.

Watch the full video from Stephanie and Vanessa

More information about Drowning Prevention Week

[1] Source: WAID (2019-2023)