Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo.
This week (June 15 to 25, 2018) marks Royal Life Saving Society UK’s (RLSS UK) Drowning Prevention Week.
In partnership with the RNLI and Swim England, RLSS UK aim to reduce the number of drowning and near-drowning incidents that occur in the UK every year, by showing people how to be safe and have fun near water.
Sadly, drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in children in the UK, and over 700 people drown in the UK and Ireland every year – equivalent to one person drowning every 20 hours.
As summer quickly approaches, it is important that children and adults are taught about the dangers of the water, especially open water, and cold water shock.
Whilst jumping in the river on a hot summer’s day might seem an attractive way to cool off, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
As the vice-chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Water Safety and Drowning Prevention and as a local MP, I have heard many stories of lives being tragically lost in the water; including Chloe Fowler, 14, and Tonibeth Purvis, 15, in July 2013 and Ross Irwin, a 22-year-old, who sadly drowned in the River Wear at Fatfield two days before Christmas in 2016.
A water safety throwline board was unveiled last month, close to the spot where Ross drowned at Fatfield Riverside.
It was unveiled by his father, David Irwin, of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Northumbria Police, Sunderland City Council and RLSS.
This was the first throwline board unveiled in the North East, and I hope there will be many more boards alongside our open waterways in Washington and Sunderland and across the region very soon.
I will continue my work with the APPG on Water Safety and Drowning to urge the Government to increase water safety education in schools, and encourage them to install initiatives such as throwline boards, so that we can soon see the number of people, especially young people, drowning in the UK decline.