The mother of a schoolboy who drowned while trying to save his friend has given her backing to a new campaign about the dangers of swimming in open water.
Although temperatures have not been soaring recently, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has still voiced fears that groups of children and teenagers are often seen playing in or around rivers, canals, and reservoirs as they are out and about with friends, looking for adventure.
Recalling the tragic death of Hatton schoolboy Kai Lambe who drowned after getting into difficulties in Tutbury Weir, to highlight the reality of water dangers, the fire service is sharing tips on how to stay safe this summer break.
Prevent manager Carmel Warren said: "While we want children and young people to enjoy the summer, we want them to be safe. As an emergency service all too often we see the devastation caused when things go wrong.
"Later this month it will be the three-year anniversary of Kai Lambe’s death. He was just nine years old when he drowned at Tutbury Weir, after going in to try to help a friend who had gotten into trouble. This tragedy highlights the dangers of open water and underlines the importance of our work to try to prevent future heartbreak.
"The water can appear very tempting when you are hot and in need of a cool down, but there are so many hidden dangers that make an outdoor dip life-threatening.
"We urge parents to be particularly vigilant during the school holidays. If you spot your children taking swimwear and towels out, challenge them and ask where they are going and advise them that under no circumstances should they swim in ponds, lakes, rivers or other areas of unsupervised water. Make sure they understand the risks involved."
Kai’s family said they would "shout from the rooftops" about anything that highlights the risks of water and paid tribute to the "lovable little man" who was a pupil at Heath Fields Primary School.
Kai’s mum Dawn Dolman, 50, said: "It doesn't matter if you are young or old; water is a killer."
She said: "I still see lots of dreadful stories about water-related deaths, especially this time of year and I just want to tell people to be safe. Kai was terrified of water but he was the loveliest person and very caring so he acted on instinct."
Miss Dolman said she would never ask people to stay away from popular beauty spots but she would ask them to take steps to stay safe.
She said: "Where Kai died was a really popular spot when we were kids and we had no cares at all but since this happened people don’t really go down there. You can still have a paddle and stay safe but there is always a risk and this has shown that anything can happen, it only takes a second. I think there are things you can do to be careful and awareness is key.
"I know these things may sound silly to people but as a mum who lost her son in this way, I am asking them to listen. I would never want anybody else to go through what we went through."
Miss Dolman, who is also to mum to Tom, 21, and Ellie-May, 23, said it is "hard to put into words the devastation it has caused".
She said: "Our lives have been changed forever and if this is what it takes to stop this from happening to others, I will shout it from the rooftops."
The activities co-ordinator, who works at a nursing home, said the youngster, who would be 12 now, was a "vibrant and very social young lad" who was loved by everybody who knew him.
She said: "He had a cheekiness about him and was always grinning from ear to ear, he was there for anybody."
A memorial event in Kai’s honour will take place on Saturday, August 19, from 2.30pm at Hatton Sports and social club. There will be a football match, raffle, tombola and refreshments.
Open water may seem enticing, but it can be extremely dangerous. Swimming outdoors is completely different to a warm swimming pool, the water is much colder in reservoirs and quarries, so much so that it can force the body to go into shock, causing muscle cramps and breathing difficulties.
Other dangers include:
- Hidden currents
- Fast flowing water, beware of locks and weirs
- Deep water
- Hidden dangers, such as rocks, rubbish and debris which can trap or cause cuts
- No lifeguards to help if you get into difficulty
For more information about keeping safe near open water visit www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk/1661.asp