Student James Clark

Andrea Corrie’s son, James, was just 19 when he tragically lost his life after enjoying a night out with friends by the River Thames at Kingston. Andrea has campaigned tirelessly ever since to educate others about the dangers of drinking near the water at riverside pubs and to make this stretch of the river safer for others. 

James on Brighton Beach in East SussexJames Clark, a happy-go-lucky 19-year-old uni student, was out with his friends at a nightclub in Kingston upon Thames.

After a fun evening of socialising and drinking, in the early hours of the morning the friends left, split into two groups and went off to find taxis.

But neither group realised James wasn’t with them.

By the next afternoon, friends and family began wondering where he was. Maybe he’d stayed the night somewhere? Then, when he didn’t appear, and his mobile phone was not working, they were worried. They waited … and waited.

Three days later, the police arrived at his mum’s door with the terrible news that James’s body had been found in the river. Among the emergency services called out was the RNLI.

A wonderful life cut short

Unbeknown to his friends, James had come out of the nightclub near the River Thames, stumbled in the dark and fallen into the water.

Despite being a strong swimmer, the effects of cold water shock left James paralysed in the freezing water and he drowned. It was a tragic irony that someone normally so at home in the water and fearless should die that way.

It was a wonderful life cut short. James was a lovable, popular young man studying to be a primary teacher. Suddenly he was gone. 

Making a difference

Commemorative plaque in memory of James Clark with the new safety barriers at Kington upon ThamesAlmost immediately after his death, James’s mother Andrea campaigned hard for safety barriers to be put up along the stretch of the Thames that claimed her son’s life. Three years later they were installed.

In recognition of her drowning prevention work in her local community and her support of our Respect the Water campaign, Andrea was awarded an RNLI Supporter Award in 2015.

Andrea has written and published a book about the family’s experiences called Into the Mourning Light, which is available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle editions. She says:

James and his mum Andrea on Brighton Beach in East Sussex‘I know that James would be proud of what we’ve achieved in the light of his loss. And I am reminded of the Starfish story.

‘It’s about a man who is walking along the beach early in the morning and in the distance he can see a young man who he thinks is dancing to greet the day. As the man gets closer, he realises that the young man is picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water.

‘He says: “Young man, why are you doing that?”

‘The young man replies: “I’m doing it because the starfish will dry out when the tide goes out and they’ll all die.”

The older man says: “But there are thousands of starfish along this stretch of beach – you can’t possibly make a difference to all of them.”

‘The young man bends down, picks up one more starfish and throws it in the water then turns to the older man and says:

‘“Well I made a difference with that one.”’  

 

I am so impressed that the RNLI’s remit today is prevention rather than just rescue. It’s too late for James, but not too late to make a lot of other people think carefully about what they are doing.

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Together we can save more lives.