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New 'Don't Drink and Drown' campaign targets students after spate of river deaths


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The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the UK’s drowning prevention charity, has called for action and awareness to be raised to stop further lives being lost after six young people have disappeared near two rivers in the UK in only 12 months.

RLSS UK is the main provider of lifesaving, lifeguarding and life support education and training in the UK, with its training subsidiary, The Institute of Qualified Lifeguards (IQL UK), awarding over 43,000 National Pool Lifeguard Qualifications (NPLQ) in the UK per year. The RLSS runs programmes and awards for water survival and rescue skills such as First Aid, Emergency Response training and Lifeguard training, in-order to safeguard lives and protect people from injury or death in and around water.

With around 400 people drowning in the UK each year, thousands of people having near-drowning experiences, and six young people having disappeared around water in the UK within the last year, the RLSS’s ‘Don’t Drink and Drown’ campaign is vital.

The campaign is aimed at drinkers, especially students, as, according to the RLSS’s ‘Don’t Drink and Drown’ campaign leaflet, approximately ‘a quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream’. It aims to warn people not to let themselves or anyone else walk past, or enter, bodies of water, whilst under the influence of alcohol as alcohol numbs your senses, slows your reactions, impairs your judgement, limits your muscle ability and subsequently increases the risk of drowning.

Adrian Lole, RLSS UK’s Director of Volunteers and Community Education, says: “Steps can be made to improve river safety and we have worked with a number of local authorities to introduce measures to reduce the dangers.

“We are also working hard to spread the message of our Don’t Drink and Drown campaign, which highlights the risks of drinking near open water and advises people how to stay safe.

“For instance, by making sure they avoid walking home along a canal or river after a night out drinking.”

The ’Don’t Drink and Drown Campaign’ has been brought to the UK public’s attention in light of the recent disappearance of 19-year-old Durham University student Euan Coulthard, who went missing close to the River Wear on Wednesday 14th January, after celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday.

20-year-old Sope Peters and 19-year-old Luke Pearce, also Durham students, drowned in the River Wear following nights out within the last year.

York has seen similar tragedies within the last year. Ben Clarkson a 22-year-old guitar salesman, drowned after falling into the River Foss (pictured above) and the body of Tyler Pearson, an 18-year-old soldier, was found in the River Ouse last April, after he had been on a night out.

Megan Roberts, a York St. John University student, died after falling into the River Ouse last January after having been out drinking with friends. Megan’s mother Jackie has been working with RLSS UK to prevent further drownings and has said, a year on from her daughter’s death: “It’s heartbreaking that so many young people have lost their lives in rivers in the past 12 months while enjoying a night out with friends.

"It’s vital we raise awareness about water safety and make sure we do everything we can to make sure our rivers are as safe as possible.”

The RLSS’s website,, has important and useful information about water safety in floods, in winter and open water.

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