Plea from mother whose son drowned in open water - don't let it happen to your child

Debbie Turnbull has dedicated her life to spreading the water safety message after she lost her own son Chris, in a drowning tragedy, 16 years ago in the Conwy Valley.

The number of people dying as a result of accidental drowning is currently on the rise in Wales, with 26 deaths reported in 2021.

These latest figures have led to the launch of the UK's largest ever drowning prevention campaign, with more than 50 organisations uniting to halve the number of victims by 2026.

It's part of the United Nations World Drowning Prevention Day.

Debbie Turnbull's charity, River and Sea Sense, has taught around half a million schoolchildren about the potential dangers of open water. But it's breaking her heart that lives are still being lost."It kills me. Every single incident, every happening, every rescue I hear about and when it's local it hits me more because I feel like I've not educated that person. It never goes away."

Chris Cousens is from the Water Safety Wales group. He says his organisation is working to try and and make people understand the impact of drowning, especially at this time of year.

"Unfortunately, when the temperatures are high, we see a lot more people going into open water, both inland at places like the reservoirs here, but also at the coast as well.

"And sadly, we see a spike in tragic incidents. There are far too many of those. And that's what we're collectively working to try and reduce."

Chris says Water Safety Wales works with a lot of families who've lost loved ones to drowning to get the message out that nobody should go through such a tragedy.

Life saving experts on a training day as cases of people dying in the water has been on the rise.

Sioned Thomas from the RNLI recently took part in a water safety exercise on a reservoir in South Wales and has been trying to make people aware of the organisation's Float to Live advice, if they find themselves in difficulty.

"The whole point of Float To Live is that when you enter the water and you find yourself in difficulties...if you float on your back this is the best way to stay calm until someone reaches you."

Float to Live tips:

  • If you're struggling in the water, fight the urge to thrash around.

  • Lean back extend your arms and legs.

  • Gently move them around to help you float if you need to.

  • Float until you can control your breathing.

  • Only then, call 999 or 112 for help or swim to safety.

As someone who lost her son to drowning, Debbie Turnbull is urging all parents to be aware of the dangers of open water swimming for their children.

"You see reports of drownings on the news. Well, because it's not you, it's just another incident. It's just another happening. But one day but it could be you.

"You need to learn. You need to understand what are the dangers of open water in any situation. You need to be aware. It's your responsibility.

"It should have been my responsibility to ensure that my son knew how to be safe in open water.

"And I didn't do it because I didn't know. I wasn't aware. it's too late for me, but it's not too late for you."