Water safety campaign launched in Fenland

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A campaign to deliver water safety education to young people in Cambridgeshire schools has been launched by the fire service.

The campaign, called #RememberRony, has been backed by the family of Huntingdon teenager Rony John, who lost his life while playing with friends last year in the River Ouse.

Group Commander Chris Parker, Head of Community Fire Safety at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS), said: “What happened last year to Rony John was heartbreaking and we want this education campaign to be a lasting legacy so that some good can evolve from his tragic death.

“We have pledged to deliver water safety education at key stage two and three to every school in Cambridgeshire to educate young people about the risks of jumping in and swimming in our county’s waterways.

“We will be asking young people to pledge their support on social media using #RememberRony and we hope that when young people are standing on the water’s edge, thinking about jumping in to the enticing water, that they stop for a moment, and remember what happened to Rony.”

In the past five years there have been 16 deaths in Cambridgeshire’s waterways at water rescue incidents attended by the fire service. At the 81 water rescues CFRS attended during that time, a further 32 people were rescued by fire crews – luckily without the victims incurring any injuries.

The day after the schools broke up for the summer holidays on July 24, 2014, 15-year-old Rony John, who was not a strong swimmer, jumped into the River Ouse, in Hartford, while playing with friends. After getting into difficulty in the water, and despite his friends’ best efforts, he sadly drowned.

Sara Thomas, Rony’s aunt, said: “We are supporting the campaign so a positive thing can come out of what happened to Rony and it can be his lasting legacy. We want more young people to know about the dangers of swimming and playing in rivers and open water and we want people to Remember Rony.

“We also want to see the provision of swimming lessons for all children in schools.”

Starting next month (June), fire service staff will be delivering a water safety education package in secondary schools and educating children through safety zone activities with primary schools.

Young people will be encouraged to use the hashtag #RememberRony to pledge their support and highlight how they will stay safe this summer, and in some areas, fire crews will join other emergency services to have a presence at sites which have been flagged up as dangerous spots, for example, Cherry Hinton chalk pits.

Firefighters will also continue to team up with partners to carry out water training exercises to hone their rescue skills.

GC Parker added: “What we’re asking the public to do is stop and think before you jump into open water. Remember what happened to Rony. Hazards lie beneath the water and even if the sun is shining, the waterways will still be cold.

“If you see someone in trouble in water, do not hesitate, call 999 immediately with clear details of your location and if possible, mark the spot where the person was last seen in the water.”