'My son loved the water – now he's dead': Mum's heatwave swimming warning

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A mum whose teenage son drowned has urged parents to speak to their children about the dangers of swimming in open water after a 12-year-old girl became the latest river death victim.

Debbie Turnbull wants to prevent more tragedies after her son, Chris, tragically died when he was just 15-years-old, after being sucked down 30ft into a cold whirlpool under a waterfall, near the family’s home in Wales.

Debbie has devoted her time and passion into developing and promoting her River And Sea Sense website, and Water Safety Map , a drowning statistical and analytical website and app since her son’s death in August 2006.

And the awful news this morning that a young girl had drowned in the River Irwell while playing with friends brought back the horrific events from the day her son died.

Debbie Turnbull wants to prevent more tragedies after her son, Chris, tragically drowned when he was just 15-years-old

 

She said: “When I hear about stories like this it hurts. It brings what happened back all over again.

“Please teach your kids about the dangers of swimming in water.  Speak to them now before it’s too late. Look at my website. Look at what happened to me and be extremely careful.

“I’m not there to spoil anyone’s fun. My son loved the water. My son is dead, what else can I say?

“I want parents to have these chats because I don’t want anyone to go through what I have been through.

“When you swim in open water you don’t know how deep that water is.

“People throw rubbish away and there’s organic things growing underground. You have no idea what’s under the water. When you jump in, you just see a nice flat bit of water.

The schoolgirl got into difficulty near a waterfall

 

“It’s the same when people jump off rocks into the sea. You just see the sea below you and that’s called tombstoning and I think it’s a good name for it.

“There could actually be a rock where they land. People look down and think they will land in a certain spot but, unfortunately, you don’t because gravity pulls you back.

“The main reason people drown is cold water shock. The minute you hit the water, if it’s really, really hot outside, and it’s so cold that the actual shock makes you immediately inhale water.

“It’s a massive shock to the body. The longer you are in the water, and it’s so cold, the body tries to fight it. The body is being attacked and it starts to shut down. My son fought for his life but it was impossible. Because it’s so cold, you can’t move as fast. Your body becomes heavy, obviously, there’s the fear factor, and it’s just a complete body shock.

“Unfortunately, the loss of life happens within minutes.”

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Emergency services were called to the River Irwell in Bury, Greater Manchester, at 7.55pm yesterday after reports a young person had got into difficulty in the water.

They tragically discovered the body of a 12-year-old girl.

Police have not confirmed the schoolgirl was swimming before she died, but have warned about the dangers of climbing into water during the heatwave.

The fire service have said the girl was with two friends

 

Recalling the day Chris died, Debbie, 60, remembers that last morning with him when she dropped him to the train on a hot summer morning for what would be his last journey to the river.

After he jumped out of the car he turned and said, ‘I love you mum,’ before running off to meet his friends.

She did not yet know that they would be the last words he ever said to her.

She said: “My husband John got home at 4.10pm and asked me where Chris was. I told him he went to Capel Curig and he said ‘he’s dead’.

“He said he’d heard on the car radio that someone was missing in the Llugwy river.

“And I just had this gut feeling and I knew it was him.

Debbie has devoted her time and passion into developing and promoting her River And Sea Sense website

 

“I picked up the phone to call the police but as I dialled, the doorbell rang. It was a policewoman and family liaison officer.

“They told us a boy was missing and it could be Chris. And I knew in my heart that he had gone.

“The next six hours were hell. People were searching for him but I knew in my heart he had gone. It was a very tough six hours.

“Chris went into the water at 12.20pm and his body was found at 7.03pm.

“Then police made us wait until after 10pm to see Chris but I’m glad I saw him then.

“He looked very peaceful. He did not look dead but just like he was sleeping although his lips were blue. He looked really calm and beautiful.

“Chris had always been a water baby and drowning was the last thing I thought would happen to him.

“He was very spiritual and you could just talk to him for hours. He was interested in what made people tick.

“I think he would have gone into the caring professions if he had survived, probably working with children.”

Chris was dragged into a whirlpool caused by icy water which had rushed down the mountain after heavy rain days earlier

 

Debbie is now preparing for the anniversary of Chris’ death in August.

She added: “It’s 13 years in August so it’s a long, long time. I think 15 years will be very difficult because it’s a time when Chris will will have been gone as long as he was alive and that will be very tough.

“There are things that still need to be done like taking his ashes and scattering them. I haven’t even brought myself to do it but I’m going to do it this year. I’m going to go back to one of his favourite places.”

 

I f you want Debbie to visit your school and run her water safety workshop email her at debbie@riverandseasense.com.

You can donate to the charity here .



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