Families who have lost loved ones to alcohol related drownings have pledged their support to a national campaign which warns people to act responsibly near water during their night out, after stats showed a staggering 41.5% rise in alcohol related drownings over the last year.

As part of the national Don’t Drink and Drown campaign, run by the UK’s drowning prevention charity the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), organisations up and down the country will be putting on events and activities, urging revellers not to walk home near bodies of water after they have been drinking.                                                                    

Grieving parents Nick Pope, Dave Irwin, and Fiona Gosling have pledged their support to the campaign, hoping their stories will help cut down the number of alcohol related drownings that happen every year.

Nick lost his much-loved son Charlie, 19, when the popular teenager from Ponteland, Northumberland, drowned in Rochdale Canal in Manchester city centre March this year following a night out.

Dave’s world turned upside down in December 2016 when his son Ross fell in the River Tyne and drowned on a night out with work colleagues in Tyne and Wear. The fun loving 22-year-old went missing after he left a pub on 23 December. His body was found in the water on Christmas Eve. 

Fiona’s precious son Cameron was a strong swimmer and thought nothing of jumping from a flat rock into the River Wear in Bishop Auckland, County Durham. But the cold water caused the 14-year-old to suffer a shock reaction and he started to struggle in the water. After a major search, divers found his body seven hours later.

Over the last five years there have been 1,581 accidental deaths in the UK and almost 30% of the victims (346) had alcohol in their bloodstream*.

In 2017 there were 75 alcohol related drownings recorded, compared to 53 the previous year.

Organisations including a wide range of fire and rescue services, police, local authorities, bars and businesses across the UK, as well as the Canal and River Trust, RNLI and the Environment Agency, across the UK have all pledged their support to the RLSS UK’s campaign and will be helping to run events throughout the campaign week, this year running from 3-9 December.

As part of the campaign, volunteers will host stalls at busy shopping areas and walk the queues at popular waterfront establishments, talking to people about the dangers of walking home near water after a night out drinking. Bars, nightclubs and universities will display posters and beermats with water safety messaging, and throwline training will be given to door staff.

Dave Irwin said he was supporting the campaign to highlight the very real danger of going near water when intoxicated: “We never expected anything like this to happen. It has left us utterly shattered. If I can manage to stop this tragedy from ever happening again I am willing to talk about this incident to anybody who is willing to listen.”

Nick Pope said the family had been completely devastated by their loss, and urges people to keep themselves and their friends safe this winter: “The key is to stay together. Pick your route home and make sure you’re going home a way that’s well-lit and away from water.” 

Di Steer, CEO for RLSS UK said: “People tragically die each year because they’ve entered the water with alcohol in their bloodstream, either deliberately or completely by accident. Drinking near or in water can be a dangerous and deadly cocktail. Alcohol can seriously impede your ability to survive in water.

“When walking home from a night out, avoid routes that are alongside water, particularly in the darkness, and always stay with and look out for your friends.”

“We want everyone to have a great time this Christmas and our Don’t Drink and Drown campaign gives essential advice to party-goers to make sure they know how to stay safe when they’re out celebrating.”

Stay Safe this Christmas:

  • Don’t walk home near water, you might fall in
  • Look out for your friends, make sure they get home safely
  • Don’t enter the water if you have been drinking
  • Alcohol seriously affects your ability to get yourself out of trouble

Don’t Drink and Drown was launched in 2014 following a string of tragic drownings of young people. Research indicated that around a quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream and RLSS UK were keen to prevent more tragedies by providing a strategic approach in hot spot areas. 

The campaign has two targeted time frames where RLSS UK and supporters push messaging through events and social media. These are September (at the start of the new university term) and December (during the festive period).

For more information on RLSS UK’s Don’t Drink and Drown campaign click here.