Fire service launches ‘Remember Rony’ water safety campaign

Launch of Remember Rony, Water Safety Campaign, at Riverside, Hartford, with (l-r) St Neots Watch Co

Launch of Remember Rony, Water Safety Campaign, at Riverside, Hartford, with (l-r) St Neots Watch Commander Jon-Paul Jones, Head of Community Fire Saftey Chris Parker, Sangeeta John, and Roy John, - Credit: Archant

Youngsters are being urged to ‘Remember Rony’ as part of a countywide campaign to prevent deaths through drowning.

Rony John,

Rony John, - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) started the initiative last week in Hartford, near where teenager Rony John died in the River Great Ouse on the first day of the school summer holidays last year.

Rony, who was not a strong swimmer, was just 15 when he got into difficulties and drowned while playing with friends.

The campaign is backed by Rony’s family, who spoke of their support for the efforts being made to warn people of the dangers.

Rony’s aunt, Sara Thomas, said: “We hope a positive will come out of Rony’s death. This is something other children should be aware of – the dangers of water.”

Recalling the moment she found out Rony was missing, his aunt said the family thought he must have been hiding and endured an agonising wait for news. “We could not think of this happening,” she added. “It was a long time before they found his body.”

It is Rony’s shocking death that will be central to the huge education programme, to be delivered in all schools in Cambridgeshire by the fire service.

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Sixteen people have been killed in the county’s waterways in the last five years. During that time, the fire service went to 81 water rescues and Huntingdonshire was the worst affected area.

Head of community fire safety for CFRS, group commander Chris Parker, said: “It’s something that’s a huge risk in our county and we need to make sure we’re equipped to deal with it.

“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.”

From this month, sessions will be delivered in all secondary schools in Cambridgeshire in the run up to the summer break, with the aim of repeat visits annually. Primary school children will also be told of the dangers at safety zone events.

St Neots watch commander, Jon-Paul Jones, who was among those who helped with the search for Rony on July 24, said: “Crew members will be drawing on personal experiences. I’ve been on two incidents in two years where young people have ended up losing their lives.

“We’ll be looking to ensure children are aware of the hazards of all sorts of water courses, flowing and still.

“If you’re not a strong swimmer, do not succumb to peer pressure. The advice is to stay out of the water.”

Mr Parker, who urged people to pledge their support for the campaign by using the hashtag #RememberRony, added: “There will still be kids down here in the summer. But we want them to listen to what we’re telling them, to think about what happened before they jump in.

“Remember what happened to Rony. Hazards lie beneath the water and even if the sun is shining, the waterways will still be cold.”