Safety message sparked by girls' River Wear deaths taken to the national stage

A life-saving message put together on Wearside is to take its heart-wrenching story across the country.

Monday, 20th June 2016, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 20th June 2016, 11:23 am
Dated: 25/08/2015 River Safety... Beth McCabe (blue jacket) and Shauna Nichol who have worked with Sunderland Council and the RNLI to produce a water safety campaign in memory of their friends Tonibeth Purvis and Chloe Fowler who both tragically drowned in the river Wear at Fatfield in 2013. With Cllr John Kelly Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture. #NorthNewsAndPictures/2daymedia

The DVD was created by Sunderland City Council and features the friends of Tonibeth Purvis and Chloe Fowler, who died after they got into difficulty swimming in the River Wear in Fatfield, Washington in July 2013.

Now the film has been adopted by the RNLI and the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS).

The video, which was pushed through social media by the young girls’ friends, delivered a hard-hitting message about the risks of being around open water, bringing to light the tragic consequences it can have and the impact drowning has on the lives of those who are left behind.

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It also backs Drowning Prevention Week, which runs until Sunday.

Council leader Paul Watson said he was pleased to see that Sunderland was blazing a trail with its work and that other areas were watching and learning, as well as making use of the resources created in the city.

He said: “Drowning is such a tragedy – especially because it is preventable.

“We all remember the horrendous events of 2013, when two of the city’s young girls lost their lives, and we feel strongly that we must take steps to prevent any more people dying in our river and in open water in and around the city.

“The video developed by the girls’ friends last year really did help to draw attention to the impact that the deaths of Chloe and Tonibeth had on their friends and family, and hopefully delivered a strong message to young people about the risks of playing close to water.

“We have developed this further, and have since ran interactive programmes with schools and local radio to ensure that the city’s young people know of the dangers.

“The fact that this video is now going to be used to spread the message about water safety nationally is a fitting tribute to the two girls we lost, and testament to the bravery of their friends, who so touchingly conveyed the sadness they felt at losing someone they loved.”

The RNLI will use the video – which includes interviews with water patrol officers, safety experts and young people from across the city, who have taken part in workshops about the risks of the water – as a presentation tool in schools the length and breadth of the country.

Carl Harris, RNLI lifeguard manager, said: “The programme delivered by the council, RNLI and RLSS in schools across the city really does seem to have shone a spotlight on just how dangerous the water can be.

“We are lucky in this city to have beautiful riversides and beaches, and we would always encourage people to enjoy them, but the key is to do this responsibly and to treat the water with the respect it deserves.

“It can easily claim lives, and we are pleased to see that this message – which came across loud and clear in the city’s drowning prevention video – will now reach the eyes and ears of hundreds, if not thousands of young people as part of a pack that will be shared with schools nationally.”

To watch the video and find out more visit