School tribute to sea victims

Special memories of two popular boys, who were swept to their deaths, will live on through fund-raising work by their schoolmates.

Southmoor Community School has chosen Sunderland RNLI as its nominated charity.

Jonathan Bernardi and Mark Langton, both 13, drowned after being swept into the North Sea in incidents almost 10 years apart.

Now the city's lifeboat station has received almost 600 raised by pupils from the Grangetown school in memory of the boys.

On September 13, 1996, Jonathan Bernardi was swept out to sea at Hendon beach after losing his footing on a slipway.

On April 10, 2006, Mark was washed out to sea from the same location.

Both times the Sunderland-based RNLI inshore lifeboat was launched and battled through heavy seas in a vain attempt to save the boys.

Mark's mother, Bev Steel, went along to the cheque presentation assembly at the school.

She said: "I'm extremely grateful to Southmoor School for choosing to remember Mark and Jonathan by adopting the Royal National Lifeboat Institution as its nominated charity.

"I hope the beach safety work they are doing with the pupils will help reduce the risk of another tragic drowning accident in the area."

During the assembly Paul France, head of Year 7, presented a donation of 560 to Sunderland RNLI on behalf of pupils.

RNLI crews then spoke to the young people about how to keep themselves and others safe when playing in or near to the sea.

Paul Nicholson, senior helmsman at Sunderland RNLI, said: "We are grateful to the school pupils for this excellent donation to help continue our lifesaving work off the city's coastline.

"We feel it is an important part of the work we do within the community to help raise the awareness of the schoolchildren to the dangers posed when playing at the coast."

The RNLI volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom. The charity operates more than 230 lifeboat stations and has more than 100 lifeguard units on beaches.

Annual running costs for the charity are more than 122million. It receives no Government funding and relies entirely on voluntary donations.