Heartbroken firefighter whose son died in tragic River Wear drowning after night out urges others to stay safe

A heartbroken firefighter whose son died in the River Wear after a night out has called on revellers to be safe near the water this winter.

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 11:54 am

The devastated dad has volunteered to chat with revellers and passers-by as part of a campaign aimed at keeping people safe and alerting them to the dangers of water.

“There’s not a minute goes by when I don’t ask myself, ‘what if?’,” said Dave.

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Crew Manager Dave Irwin - holding a throw bag at Fatfield along the River W

“I know that nothing we can do will ever bring Ross back to us after that fateful night. But if we manage to help just one person with our water safety advice and save their family heartache this Christmas then it will be a worthwhile campaign.

“We miss Ross terribly, and it was a tragic accident that cut short his beautiful life nearly five years ago. If people are able to remember one vital message this festive season it would be please avoid all rivers, lakes and waterways after your night out.

“Consuming alcohol can be fun at the time but unfortunately it can cloud your judgement and in some cases may end in tragedy. Please be careful and extra vigilant on your journey to and from your festivities.”

Dave, aged 48, works as a Crew Manager at Birtley Community Fire Station.

Ross Irwin

It was believed Ross lost his footing on the water’s edge along the river bank at Bonemill Lane – after telling friends he was going to get a taxi home.

Since Ross’s death Dave and his family have become passionate water safety campaigners in memory of their son and brother.

Even managing to help install lifesaving ‘throw-line’ equipment along sections of the River Wear.

Dave will talk about why it’s important to share his knowledge and life experiences with others at a #DontDrinkandDrown event on Sunday, December 5, at Newcastle’s Quayside.

Ross Irwin (right), with his dad Dave.

Don’t Drink and Drown is the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) UK’s national campaign that encourages smart decision making whilst intoxicated around water.

It particularly targets individuals to be responsible for their friends if they have had too much to drink.

On average 73 people lose their lives each year through a substance-related drowning – more than 20% of the annual accidental drowning fatalities.

Safety campaigners are urging people to take care during the festive season.

Lee Heard, RLSS UK’s charity director, said: “Christmas and New Year will undoubtedly see many people out in the city centre celebrating during the festive period, and we are encouraging everyone to ‘Be a Mate’ and ensure that their friends and family get home safely, away from water.

"Drowning is a significant issue all year-round and one which needs caution this Christmas. We urge everyone to be mindful and plan a safe route home away from water.”

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