'Spirit of Sonny' rescue boat launched in York memory of drowned teen

Sonny Ferry's family joined members of York Rescue Boat for the launch of the 'Spirit of Sonny'. Credit: ITV News

A rescue boat has been launched in memory of a teenager who drowned in York.

The £45,000 'Spirit of Sonny' was bought using money raised by Kate and Steve Ferry whose 19-year-old son Sonny died in April 2019 after falling into the River Foss.

Teams from York Rescue Boat searched for him, and eventually found his body. Sonny's parents chose to repay their efforts by pledging to raise the funds for a new boat.

Sonny Ferry was just 19 when he died. Credit: Family photo.

Mr and Mrs Ferry said the boat was "tangible evidence of the empathy, generosity, determination and joyful talent of so many wonderful people who, through their joint efforts, have so comforted us through the trauma and heartbreak of losing our beautiful Sonny".

They added that the fundraising campaign had been "characterised by the same joyful energy that Sonny radiated in abundance during his life".

"We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for making this a reality," they said.

The charity said that without the fundraising efforts of Sonny's family, buying the new vessel had "seemed to be just a pipe dream".

Dave Horn, York Rescue Boat's Senior Operations Manager credited "the fantastic drive and determination shown by Kate, Steve, their family, friends and everyone else who have donated to this campaign" and said that the charity had decided to name the boat in Sonny's honour.

Tips on staying safe in the water

Whether you are an experienced swimmer or not, there are simple principles you should follow when swimming:

  • Always look for warning and guidance signs

  • Only enter the water in areas with adequate supervision and rescue cover

  • Always wear a buoyancy aid or lifejacket for activities on the water or at the water’s edge (such as when boating or fishing)

  • Never enter the water after consuming alcohol

  • Be aware of underwater hazards

  • Get out of the water as soon as you start to feel cold

  • Swim parallel with the shore, not away from it

  • Avoid drifting in the currents

  • Do not enter fast flowing water

  • Always take someone with you when you go into or near water. If something goes wrong they will be able to get help. If someone is in difficulty in the water shout reassurance to them, shout for help and call the emergency services (call 999 or 112)

The 'Spirit of Sonny' has been built by Highfield, based on their Patrol 660 hull, but with bespoke modifications to give the charity the working platform that it needs during patrols, searches and rescues.

The design provides better seating for the crew, a working area capable of taking a basket stretcher, improved sonar, radio and electronics, greater towing capability and a more reliable and environmentally friendly engine.   

Any extra funds raised will go towards the additional equipment required to get the boat fully kitted out and ready for service in York.

York Rescue Boat was set up as an independent lifeboat and search and rescue team in 2015.

It provides both boat and foot patrols of the rivers every Friday and Saturday night as well as having a team on permanent standby to respond to emergencies alongside the police and fire service.  

In 2020 the volunteers responded to 52 call outs, including searching for missing persons, concerns for safety and rescuing persons from the water. 

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