The mother of a 20-year-old student who died after falling into a York river on a night out has told how she will “never stop missing” her daughter in a new video made to raise awareness about the risk of drowning.
Jackie Roberts, from Wetherby, whose daughter Megan went missing last January before her body was found in the River Ouse, has told her story as part of a six-minute video produced by the Royal Life Saving Society UK.
The video, released to mark Drowning Prevention Week, also features the sister of David Cullen, who drowned in Waterloo Lake at Roundhay Park in Leeds, along with another teenager, Christopher Copland, on June 22, 2005.
‘Beneath the Surface – the Families’ Stories’ features people from across the UK who have lost someone to drowning and aims to raise awareness of the issue.
Figures released last week show 338 people lost their lives to drowning in 2014 and many of these deaths could have been preventable.
Mrs Roberts, who is the charity’s UK ambassador, said she hoped the film “goes a long way in raising awareness about the dangers and the devastation that drowning leaves in its wake”.
She told The Yorkshire Post: “I don’t feel that you can really move on after losing a child, especially in such a traumatic way. You have to find a way of moving on with your life.
“It is a form of instrumental grieving. I am doing work that I feel is positive in Megan’s memory, and it is hopefully preventing people being in the same position as myself, which keeps Megan’s memory alive.”
Megan, 20, a fine arts student at York St John University, went missing on a night out with friends last January. Her body was found in the water near Acaster Malbis almost six weeks later.
An inquest heard Megan died after becoming disoriented after drinking. The cause of the tragedy, one of three in York’s rivers in a matter of weeks, was drowning.
In the video, Mrs Roberts says: “Megan was a beautiful girl. She was 20 when she died. We didn’t know what had happened to start with. We just knew she was missing.
“The river was very high, she has fallen off some steps straight into the River Ouse. It was an accident. Megan fell in unexpectedly.
“I was standing in my kitchen one morning, ringing the police to say ‘my daughter is missing’. It is just the worst place anyone can be. I had a call saying a body has been found at Acaster.
“When I found out for certain that was her, as a mum I just went over and over in my head what she possibly went through, and I still do.
“I didn’t ever have a chance to say goodbye, she just went. It is something I have got to carry for the rest of my life, the fact that I have lost my daughter, and I will never stop missing her.
“My best memory of her is of her growing up and being my friend as well as my daughter. That is something I miss an awful lot.”
Other families included in the film are Olivia and Nigel Rowe from Wiltshire, who lost their three-year-old Jack in 2014, and Stephen Harris from Nuneaton who lost his 18-year-old son, Jay, after he drowned in a quarry in 2009.
David Cullen, 16, and Christopher Copland, 15, died after getting into difficulties in Waterloo Lake in Roundhay Park, on the hottest day of the year in 2005.
Mr Cullen’s sister Claire, 27, said: “We want to support Drowning Prevention Week as something has to be done to raise awareness of water safety and the dangers of lakes like the one in which we lost David.”
She told the makers of the video of her “shock and horror” at learning of her brother’s death. She said: “When I discovered it was drowning that had been the cause of death it was really bizarre because David was petrified of drowning.
“I don’t like to think about the fact that that is what happened to him. I just couldn’t imagine what was going through his mind, he must have known he was going to die.
“I can still recall it like it was yesterday, my mum and dad just being in absolute pieces. Sometimes I can hear a song on the radio and just cry because it touches upon it.
“I don’t want other people to go through what me and my family have gone through. It has just had a huge impact on every aspect of our lives.”
RLSS UK’s Chief Executive, Di Steer, said: “Firstly we are extremely grateful to all of the brave families that had the strength to tell their stories. They are remarkable.
“We now hope that people will watch, listen and understand that such a tragedy could happen to anyone.
“We don’t, however, want to discourage people from enjoying water safely, in designated, lifeguarded environments. Water is fantastic fun, but can be deadly as we can so tragically see in our film.”
For more information on Drowning Prevention Week visit www.rlss.org.uk.