At least seven people have lost their lives in British waters so far in August.
These included a 12-year-old year old girl, as well as a mum and a dad in different parts of the country who died trying to rescue their children who had got into difficulty. At the weekend, two teenage brothers also lost their lives. It is a sad reminder of the dangers posed by coastal, river, lake and tidal areas.
These tragic deaths come exactly a year after Deal youngster, Lucas Dobson, only six-years-old, lost his life after falling into the River Stour. An inquest heard that Lucas was enjoying a BBQ and day out on his dad’s boat at their friend’s privately owned jetty. While his dad was checking an engine on his friend’s boat, Lucas missed his footing trying to jump onto another boat by himself, plunged into the water and was instantly swept under by strong tidal currents. His body was not recovered for four days.
The inquest heard that on that day neither Lucas nor his friends were wearing lifejackets. That’s why I am supporting Lucas’s family – mother Kirsty Furze, grandmother Donna Kentfield and cousin Zoe Alldis – in their calls for a new law. Lucas’s Law would make it compulsory for young children to wear lifejackets on boats, require more life-saving buoyancy rings to be installed near rivers, lakes and seas, and start a new safety awareness campaign for parents of young children to use float suits and swim vests when children are playing near water.
The year that Lucas died, the RNLI said they helped almost 40,000 people who got into trouble in water. It is estimated that between a quarter and a third of children leave primary school are unable to swim 25 metres unaided. Additionally, around a fifth of adults can’t swim either – meaning that they can’t rescue a child who gets into difficulty. The National Water Safety Forum has said that just over one-third of all accidental drowning deaths happened at the coast, shore or beach and further that many lives might have been saved with a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.
That’s why it’s time for the UK to bolster its Drowning Prevention Strategy and put in place basic life-saving laws to protect young children. Because it only takes a moment for an accident to happen around water that can take a young life. Children’s float suits and swim vests can cost less than a tenner. Like cycle helmets and seatbelts, it just makes sense to be water safe. Yet more people die from drowning every year than from cycling.
Many other countries including America, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand already have mandatory lifejacket laws. And as we have seen in the last two weeks, people of all ages are not always aware of the dangers posed by open water.
This issue needs to be addressed urgently. It’s time for the UK to bring in Lucas’ law, raise water safety awareness, and save young lives.