Grieving parents whose children drowned whilst at university, are backing the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s (RLSS UK) national water safety, behaviour change campaign ‘Don’t Drink and Drown’, urging students to stay away from the water on their night out and leave no one behind.

As part of the Don’t Drink and Drown campaign and the start of Worcester University’s ‘Welcome Week’, Monday 16 September saw Vicki and Ian Jones reveal new water rescue equipment near the spot where their son, Tom, is thought to have fallen into the River Severn during Fresher’s Week last September. 

Tom Jones 18 (Worcester), Megan Roberts 20 (York), and 19-year-old Charlie Pope (Manchester), are just some of the students who’ve drowned when they’d walked home alone after they’d been drinking with friends.  

Their parents, desperate to prevent further tragedies, are pledging their support to the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s (RLSS UK) Don’t Drink and Drown campaign, running from 12-19 September, which aims to cut down the number of alcohol-related drowning accidents that happen in the UK every year. 

Tom had just started a primary teaching course at the University of Worcester when he went missing on 19 September 2018 after a night out with friends. His body was found nine days later.

Mum Vicki has been working with RLSS UK, since hearing the terrible news that her son’s body had been found in the water. 

“I kept thinking, this couldn’t have happened, Tom was a strong swimmer he couldn’t have drowned. I went onto RLSS UK’s website to try and understand how it could have happened.

“The charity helped me understand the affect alcohol can have on the body and how cold water can affect muscle movement from working properly. And the undercurrent where he fell in would have been so strong.”

She urged people to never walk near water or go into the water by themselves: “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 he had made a different choice, this would never have happened.”

The throw rescue equipment being installed today, has been supplied by safety innovators, Reach and Rescue. Their Portsafe board enables a rescuer to pull a casualty to safety, without unnecessary risk to themselves. Reach and Rescue, RLSS UK’s new water safety partner, have donated the board, as part of the new partnership. 

Reach and Rescue develops long-reach, telescopic water rescue poles, that enable emergency services and members of the public to carry out swift and accurate rescues, by retrieving casualties in water from safe distances, minimising the danger posed to themselves and boosting the casualty’s survival chances. 

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.”

RLSS UK, in conjunction with the reveal of the equipment and their Don’t Drink and Drown campaign are also urging commercial venues and night time spots to train frontline staff in the charity’s certificated Water Rescue Equipment Training (WRET). The training positions well trained community responders to act should an individual fall into the water during a night out.

Robert Gofton, RLSS UK CEO, said: “These September activities, happening all over the UK, are a warm up to the main bulk of activity in December, where we will be carrying out throwline training and campaign activity at particular drowning hotspots, as well as launching a new video and resources. We urge everyone that has the opportunity to positively impact individuals whilst out drinking to support the campaign.

“Having the support of some of the families affected by these tragedies makes a massive difference to the campaign and the impact it has on those we are targeting. Their honest, heart-breaking stories show that this can happen to anyone at any time and there are things you can do to keep yourself and your friends safe. 

“Huge thanks must go to Reach and Rescue, our new water safety partner, for their generous donation of a Portsafe board in Worcester. We’re looking forward to working with them in the future.”