THE family of a South Tyneside man who died while enjoying a swim in the sea are giving their backing to a new water safety campaign.
William Symcox, known affectionately to friends as Billy, died when he suffered what is believed to be a heart attack while swimming, off the coast of Marsden in May.
Today, his family give their backing to the ‘Respect the Water’ campaign launched by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
The campaign is urging people to stay safe this summer during trips to the seaside.
Mr Symcox’s father, Billy, from Whiteleas, South Shields, said: “If Billy had been wearing a wetsuit or had not been swimming for as long in the water, he may still be here.
“As a family we give our backing to this campaign, as people do need to take more care when swimming in the sea.
“People need to make sure, if they are swimming for a long time to put on a wetsuit, not to go swimming alone and to make sure they are in view of the lifeguards.”
The campaign comes after figures by the charity revealed 29 people accidently lost their lives around the North East coast, last year – the highest number in four years.
A further 52 lives were saved by lifeboat crews and lifeguards.
Michael Avril, the RNLI’s community incident reduction manager for the North of England, said: “With more people losing their lives at the coast each year than are killed in cycling accidents, we’re trying to make people, particularly men, release that they are at risk from drowning if they don’t follow some basic but important safety advice.
“Of course we want people to go to the coast and enjoy it – we’re lucky to have an exceptional coastline around the UK – but we want people to understand there are risks, and that they should not underestimate the power of the sea.”
Statistics reveal about 20 of the coastal deaths in the North since 2010 was people swimming or making general use of the water – with cold water shock being blamed by the charity as a “significant” danger.
Mr Avril added: “Despite warm air temperatures, the UK sea temperature is cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock, so acclimatise gradually in shallow water.
“Don’t over-estimate your ability – the sea is a very different environment to a pool and even the strongest of swimmers can tire quickly.”