RNLI and firefighters to team up and prevent drowning tragedies

RNLI volunteers and firefighters are to team up as part of a training scheme to prevent drowning tragedies following the death of a much-loved son.

Thursday, 21st December 2017, 5:00 am
Ross Irwin (right), with his dad Dave.

Community safety experts from the RNLI and North East firefighters will work together to deliver a community responder training scheme to help prevent people drowning around rivers and waterways across the region.

The scheme is dedicated to the memory of Ross Irwin, a 22-year-old who accidentally drowned in the River Wear at Fatfield on his way home from a Christmas night out with his friends a year ago.

Ross Irwin with his dad Dave and brother Jack.

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Ross’ dad, Washington firefighter Dave Irwin, is backing the scheme which is aimed at helping businesses understand the dangers cold water poses to their customers and provide them with the equipment to help rescue them safely.

Staff from pubs, clubs and restaurants, including security staff and waterside community members, are encouraged to sign up to the scheme and engage the public water safety.

They will learn how to use a throw bag and what to do when people get into distress in or near the water.

The potentially lifesaving throw bags, a 20 metre floating line used to pull a casualty to safety, can be supplied to venues at key locations across the North East.

Ross Irwin with his dad Dave and brother Jack.

Nick Ayers, RNLI Community Safety Partner, and Ben Mitchell, Area Lifesaving Manager, will initially work with Tyne and Wear Firefighters who will then roll out delivery of the training to local businesses and communities.

Nick said: “Recent research by partners, the Royal Lifesaving Society UK, found that around a quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream.

“These people are getting into difficulty in water that is not normally used for swimming or leisure activities and specialist help is often unavailable.

“By teaming up with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service we hope to make a significant impact on the number of people losing their life in rivers and waterways when they’re walking home after enjoying a night with their friends.

“We know that this is a risk to people in the region, either suffering from cold water shock when they didn’t intend to be in the water, getting caught up in fast flowing water, becoming injured or trapped by objects in the water or even them coming into contact with contaminated water.

“This training scheme aims to raise awareness of these dangers and ultimately help save a life.”

Keith Carruthers, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Area Manager, Community Safety said: “The loss of any life, is a tragedy for the family.

“This is even more so, when the tragedy could be avoided.

“With greater awareness and training by those who work in the hospitality industry and better understanding by those whose walk home takes them close to open water, I very much hope that we can make a positive impact on the number of people who lose their life through drowning.

“The sad loss of Dave’s son Ross was felt throughout TWFRS and I very much hope that our work with the RNLI, will ensure other families don’t suffer similar fates.”

The RNLI is appealing for venues, managers and staff at pubs, bars and restaurants to take part in the training. Sign up here today: www.rnli.org/pages/throw-bag-training.