Swim Safe comes to Wales for the first time

Lifeguards News Release

A mother whose son drowned while swimming in a North Wales river is backing an outdoor swim safety scheme teaching hundreds of children how to stay safe in the open water.

Debbie Turnbull’s son Christopher drowned after he was trapped underwater swimming in the Pont Cyfyng Falls, near Capel Curig, Gwynedd, in August 2006. He was 15 years old.

Now Debbie, who has been a tireless water safety education campaigner since Christopher’s tragic death, is advocating Swim Safe, a free programme of outdoor swimming and water safety sessions for children which came to Wales for the first time this week.

The Swim Safe sessions, which are delivered in partnership between the ASA (Amateur Swimming Association), Swim Wales and the RNLI charity (Royal National Lifeboat Institution), kicked off at Plas Menai National Outdoor Centre near Caernarfon on Monday (11 July). The first four days are for school groups, before three days of sessions for the general public from Friday until Sunday. Practical, interactive, educational and fun, each session includes a land-based safety lesson with a lifeguard and in-water tuition with a swimming teacher, with wetsuits, swimming hats and a free goody bag with t-shirt all provided.

Debbie, who is approaching the 10th anniversary of her son’s death next month, said: ‘Christopher lost his life swimming in a spot he had been to many times before and knew well and he was a strong swimmer. You can be a really confident pool swimmer but swimming in open water brings its own challenges. So, it’s really important that both children and parents know the dangers of open water swimming and how to stay safe.’

Swim Safe sessions are for children aged between seven and 14 and hundreds of children have already signed up and will be taking part in Swim Safe at Plas Menai this week.

Debbie, originally from Llandudno but now living in Holywell, Flintshire, added: ‘I am 100% behind the Swim Safe programme as it’s great to see the RNLI, the ASA and Swim Wales all pulling together to increase education about water safety for children.

‘So many children are learning skills to help keep them safe in the open water and judging on today’s evidence it looks like they’re having great fun at the same time.’

Hope Filby, Swim Safe Coordinator at Plas Menai, said: ‘There are all sorts of environmental factors to consider when you’re swimming outdoors and it’s important that children know how to call for help if they get into trouble.

‘It is great to be the first place in Wales to run the Swim Safe scheme and we’re delighted so many children are here learning vital safety tips and techniques for swimming in the open water in time for the summer holidays.’

Today (Wednesday 13 July) Plas Menai also plays host to the Safety Outdoors Day, where a range of emergency services and other agencies will be showing off their work and equipment.

Children will get to take part in mountain biking sessions with Cycling Wales and get to see the RNLI and North Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s Flood Rescue Teams in action on the water.

Swim Wales, Mountain Rescue England and Wales and the Outdoor Partnership will also be on hand with demonstrations and advice on how to stay safe in the outdoors this summer.

Some places are still available for Friday’s Swim Safe sessions. Parents can book their children on now at www.Swimming.org/SwimSafe.

Notes to Editors:
Please credit the attached pictures from today to Alan Dop.
Photographs of Debbie Turnbull and her son Christopher are also attached.
For more information please contact Chris Cousens, RNLI Press Officer, Wales and West, on 07748 265496 or 01745 585162 or by email on chris_cousens@rnli.org.uk

About Swim Safe
Swim Safe began in 2013 and ran for five weeks in Bude, Cornwall, teaching local children and those holidaying in the area how to be safe in and around the sea. By 2015 the programme had expanded to Bude, Bournemouth, Sandhaven, the Lake District, the Isle of Man, Plymouth and Jersey and included the introduction of Swim Safe For Schools. This year the programme will be delivered in over 13 locations with thousands of places available. For more information visit www.swimming.org/swimsafe

About Swim Wales
Swim Wales is the Welsh national governing body for swimming, diving, synchronised swimming and water polo. There are over 80 affiliated clubs, which are supported by Swim Wales through a national and regional structure. For more information visit: www.swimwales.org

About the ASA
The ASA (Amateur Swimming Association) is the English national governing body for swimming, diving, synchronised swimming and water polo. It organises competitions throughout England, establishes the laws of the sport, and operates a comprehensive certification and education programmes for teachers, coaches and officials. There are over 1,000 affiliated swimming clubs which are supported by the ASA through a national, regional and county structure. Millions of children have been taught to swim through the ASA’s learn to swim programmes. The ASA also develops programmes and initiatives to increase the number of people swimming more often.  For more information visit: www.swimming.org/asa

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or or by email.