Police and firefighters have issued a timely warning about the dangers of swimming in rivers and locks as the first anniversary of the death of a Huntingdon schoolboy approaches.
Firefighters from Huntingdon visited St Peter’s School, on Monday, to deliver a presentation about the dangers of open water swimming as part of their #RememberRony campaign.
Rony John, aged 15, a former St Peter’s pupil, drowned after jumping into the River Great Ouse at Riverside Green, Hartford, on July 24 last year – on the first day of the school summer holidays.
After an inquest into Rony’s death, in April, the fire service pledged to deliver water safety education to every school in the county before the end of the summer term.
Watch commander Jon Wade, who visited the school with Green Watch, said: “It was particularly poignant to deliver the #RememberRony presentation to pupils at Rony’s old school.
We just hope that by others learning about the hazards of open water and remembering Rony, we can prevent another tragedy.”
Rony’s friends and fellow pupils at the Huntingdon school learned about the potential hazards that lie beneath the surface, the cold water temperature and what to do if they see someone in trouble.
Pupil David Clancy, 15, said: “I’ve learned a lot about the dangers of open water and how it can affect your body. I’d never think of swimming in the water again after what happened to Rony.”
Hannah Airs, also 15, added: “I’ve learned a lot about how to deal with someone if I can see they’re in difficulty in the water.
“Beforehand I probably would have just jumped in because it’s human nature, but now I know I should use the things around me to help them get out.”
Assistant head teacher Rebecca Soper said: “Rony’s death had a huge impact on everyone at the school. We fully support the fire service’s #RememberRony campaign and were pleased to welcome firefighters to our school again on Monday. We sincerely hope that all our pupils enjoy themselves this summer
holiday but also stay safe. We’ll all be thinking of Rony and his family on Friday.”
St Neots police say they have already dealt with a number of reports of youngsters jumping into rivers and locks this year.
“Whilst we know that we are unable to stop this activity we ask that all children are made aware of the inherent dangers such as hidden objects and undercurrents,” said Sgt Kevin Thorne, from St Neots police.
“There have been previous serious incidents around this activity – even one person losing their young life - and we would not like to see any of these terrible incidents repeated.”
Officers also raised concerns about anti-social and criminal behaviour in the town.
“This year we have already seen incidents being reported from the beginning of April, to police and partner agencies, involving rowdy and nuisance behaviour, underage drinking, criminal damage, and theft. If you are the parent or guardian of young children please encourage them to behave responsibly.”
In the past five years there have been 16 deaths in Cambridgeshire’s waterways at incidents attended by the fire service.