MP backs drink drown campaign following tragic death of firefighter's son on night out

A Wearside MP has given her backing to a campaign urging people not to drink near water following the tragic death of a devoted son.

Friday, 8th December 2017, 3:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:55 am
Dont Drink and Drown campaign launch. From left Dave Irwin, Royal Life Saving Society Kenny Macdermid and Sharon Hodgson MP

The body of Ross Irwin was in the River Wear at Fatfield on Christmas Eve last year.

The popular 22-year-old is thought to have fallen into the water while on a night out in the area.

Dont Drink and Drown campaign launch. From left Dave Irwin, Royal Life Saving Society Kenny Macdermid and Sharon Hodgson MP

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It is thought he went through a small gap in a fence by the river bank to urinate and fell down the drop straight into the river.

His body was found about 100 yards down river.

Earlier this week the Echo reported how Ross’s devastated dad Dave, an officer with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue service, is supporting the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s (RLSS) Don’t Drink and Drown campaign, urging people not to take risks if they are near open water on a night out.

Now, Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson is also backing the awareness campaign.

Ross Irwin (right), with his dad Dave.

“I just don’t think young people realise how dangerous it is once they’ve had a drink to go near water, especially when it is in the dark,” said Mrs Hodgson.

“We’ve had 30 people die in open water in the Tyne and Wear area in the last five years alone and of those 30, 11 had drink and some even had drugs in their system.

“The safest way is to just keep away from the water.

“It’s heartbreaking what happened to Ross and I know that is what has drove on Dave and the wider family to get involved in this campaign.

Dont Drink and Drown campaign launch. Dave Irwin

“This Christmas will be the first anniversary since Ross passed away and they just don’t want any other family to have to face that.”

Heartbroken Dave said his son was an inspiration to him and despite being diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a toddler, Ross, a former Houghton Kepier and Usworth Sixth Form pupil, never let the condition affect him.

Just before his death Ross had managed to get a permanent job at the Child Benefit Centre in Waterview Park in Washington,

He was also looking forward to holidays abroad in 2017 which he had booked with his dad.

Dont Drink and Drown campaign launch. Dave Irwin with Fire Service colleagues

The crew manager, who is also dad to younger son Jack, said: “There are too many innocent young lives being lost by people drowning in water.

“These are preventable accidents and I don’t want any other person to be a drowning statistic or any other parent or family to go through the trauma that we have gone through.

“Having a drink makes you feel more confident but remember to stay in touch with your friends and always tell them where you are going and stay away from the water.”

Speaking about the grief he and the rest of Ross’s family, including Ross’s devoted mum Debbie Herkes, have suffered in the past 12 months, Dave added: “It’s been horrific for both his mam and myself.

“Ross and his mam were not just like mam and son, they were best friends too.

“The pain it has caused has been indescribable.”

Ross Irwin with his dad Dave and brother Jack.
Dont Drink and Drown campaign launch. From left Dave Irwin, Royal Life Saving Society Kenny Macdermid and Sharon Hodgson MP
Ross Irwin (right), with his dad Dave.
Dont Drink and Drown campaign launch. Dave Irwin
Dont Drink and Drown campaign launch. Dave Irwin with Fire Service colleagues
Ross Irwin with his dad Dave and brother Jack.