Published: 25 July 2023
Water Safety Wales has teamed up with a Pembrokeshire mum on World Drowning Prevention Day to help prevent other families from enduring the tragedy she has suffered after losing her son.
The collaboration comes as Public Health Wales, ROSPA and Water Safety Wales launch a joint report which reveals there were 62 non-intentional water-related fatalities in Wales in children and young people under 25 years of age between 2013 and 2022.
As schools break for the summer, Water Safety Wales, a collaboration of around 40 organisations in Wales with an interest in water safety is keen to raise to educate families in water safety. As part of the strategy, an educational event is being held at Llyn-y-Fran on World Drowning Prevention Day aimed at promoting safe use of open water this summer.
In light of the report findings that drowning is the second most common cause of non-intentional injury fatalities in children under 18 years of age in Wales, after transport related fatalities.1 It is hoped the event will highlight the risks.
The event will be attended by Carli Newell, a 36-year-old mother of two boys from Pembrokeshire, who lost her 11-year-old son Zac Thompson in summer 2022. She is now committed to working with Water Safety Wales to raise awareness of the risks.
Zac was at the coast with his family and friends observing the sunset last summer when an unexpected wave forcefully swept him under the water. He sadly died in hospital the following day.
Carli, who has established the charity Forever 11 to raise awareness of water safety in Zac’s memory said:
‘A year on, the impact of Zac's death is still palpable within our community. Zac remains affectionately remembered by all who knew him, with several memorial matches held in the sports he adored, a tradition that will endure for years to come. Zac possessed an infectious personality; funny, cheeky, intelligent, kind, and extremely courageous. Despite his small stature, he emanated a larger-than-life aura, drawing people towards him.’
Carli is calling on families to make safety their priority. She adds:
‘In Wales we are blessed with fantastic beaches, bays, harbours, lagoons and inland waters, the significance of water safety and education regarding appropriate actions during emergencies cannot be overstated. The evidence presented in this report makes clear that more can be done to reduce water-related fatalities in children and young people in Wales and safeguard them as they revel in and respect the water. I urge everyone to consider what more they can do to help children and young people enjoy the water safely.’
The report has revealed:
Public Health Wales’ Child Death Review Programme (CDRP), Water Safety Wales and RoSPA noted five deaths of children under 18 years of age from drowning in 2022 which was higher than in previous years, which led to them working in partnership to produce the report.
Chris Cousens, Chair of Water Safety Wales said:
‘The aim of this report is to help inform the preventative work of water safety professionals in Wales to prevent future deaths of children and young people from water-related fatalities.
‘The death of a child or young person has devastating and life changing impacts on families and the wider community. We are incredibly grateful to Carli for her strength and determination to make a difference in memory of Zac. It is sobering to reveal the almost half of the children and young people were taking part in activities where they had not intended entering the water, just like Zac when the fatal incident occurred. We are hoping the release of this report will encourage families to be aware of the risks and be mindful of the dangers of open water.’
During the event on World Drowning Prevention day, Water Safety Wales representatives will be speaking to members of the public and encouraging families to try popular sports such as Stand Up Paddleboarding and Open Water Swimming, with experts on hand to offer advice. There will also be a demonstration to ensure the public are aware of the role of the emergency services and how to enlist their help in an emergency.
‘With the summer holidays upon us, we want people to continue to enjoy the water, but by highlighting the risks, we want people to be aware of their surroundings, be well equipped and know exactly what to do should they get into trouble.’
Water Safety Wales’ key safety advice for children and young people to remember is:
Dr Rosalind Reilly, Consultant in Public Health for the Child Death Review Programme (CDRP) at Public Health Wales, said:
‘Drowning is the second most common cause of non-intentional injury fatalities in children under 18 years of age in Wales, after transport related fatalities.
‘Very sadly, there were five deaths of children under 18 years old in Wales in 2022, so the Child Death Review Programme (CDRP) has worked with Water Safety Wales and RoSPA in order to produce this report examining water-related fatalities in children and young people under 25 between 2013 and 2022.
‘Previous reviews undertaken by the CDRP into deaths by drowning have resulted in action being taken, including the development of a Wales-wide water safety forum, Water Safety Wales, which has developed a wide range of drowning prevention and water safety activities aimed at children and young people in Wales.
‘Clearly, the death of a child or young person has devastating and life changing impacts on families and the wider community. This report will inform the work of water safety professionals, in order to prevent the same thing happening to others.’
Scarlets rugby players Josh Macleod and Macs Page will also be in attendance to help spread the important water safety messages.