On Sunday 5 December 2021, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) were in Newcastle quayside to mark the start of the Don’t Drink and Drown campaign.

TWFRS had a stall that formed part of Newcastle’s Sunday market as they joined forces with Newcastle City Council’s Flood Management and Resilience Planning team, Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, and RLSS UK.

TWFRS were joined on the day by members of South Shields Volunteer Lifeguard Club, North Sea Volunteer Lifeguards and the RLSS UK Northumberland and Durham Branch as they handed out vital water safety advice in a bid to raise awareness amongst members of the public about water safety, specifically after having a drink. Amongst the team of volunteers was serving Firefighter and Crew Manager Dave Irwin. Dave tragically lost his son, Ross, in December 2016 aged just 22 years old after he had been on a Christmas night out with work friends.

It’s believed that Ross lost his footing on the water’s edge along the riverbank after telling his friends he was going to get a taxi home. Since Ross’s death, Dave and his family have become passionate about water safety campaigning and have even managed to install lifesaving throw-line equipment along sections of the River Wear.

Dave shared his knowledge and life experiences with others during Sunday’s #DontDrinkandDrown event, adding “I know that nothing we can do will ever bring Ross back to us after that fateful night. But if we manage to help just one person with our water safety advice and save their family heartache this Christmas then it will be a worthwhile campaign.

“We miss Ross terribly, and it was a tragic accident that cut short his beautiful life nearly five years ago.  If people are able to remember one vital message this festive season it would be please avoid all rivers, lakes, and waterways after your night out. 

“Consuming alcohol can be fun at the time but unfortunately it can cloud your judgement and, in some cases, may end in tragedy. Please be careful and extra vigilant on your journey to and from your festivities.”

Although it was an extremely rainy day, all of the volunteers were able to have a number of important conversations with members of the public to raise awareness of staying safe around the water this winter.

For further information on the Don’t Drink and Drown campaign, visit the Don’t Drink and Drown webpage to download resources to help spread the word and help keep your friends and family safe.