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.

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

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

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

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

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.

Ross Irwin (right), with his dad Dave.

Ross Irwin (right), with his dad Dave.

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

“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.

Dont Drink and Drown campaign launch. Dave Irwin

Dont Drink and Drown campaign launch. Dave Irwin

“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.

“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,

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

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

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

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.

Ross Irwin with his dad Dave and brother Jack.

Ross Irwin with his dad Dave and brother Jack.

“The pain it has caused has been indescribable.”