‘‘I didn’t know about cold water shock, I have always jumped in rivers from heights. I won’t do that again. It has made me realise how dangerous it is.”
Those were the reflections of just one of more than 3,000 County Durham schoolchildren who have sat through hard-hitting assemblies on the potentially fatal consequences of jumping into cold water without getting used to the temperature first.
Durham County Council’s One Point Service Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle One Point Service delivered the assemblies at six schools as part of Safe Durham Partnership’s Dying to be Cool campaign, which aims to educate 10 to 16 year olds on the dangers of cold water shock.
Students were addressed by Fiona Gosling, whose 14 year son Cameron died from cold water shock after jumping into the River Wear near Bishop Auckland without having acclimatised in July last year.
They also watched a film featuring Mrs Gosling and the Willington Parkside Academy student’s friends, produced by Durham County Council, at the spot where he died and were shown some of the equipment used by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) in river rescues.
By Tuesday’s final assembly, the important safety messages will have reached around 3,360 students.
A member of staff at one of the schools said: “It takes a lot to get our year 10s to sit there and take notice but they were all fully engaged with it, I think you could tell that when they all applauded Cameron’s Mam when she finished.
“I don’t know if they were discussing it for the whole time when we got back to form but I’ve never seen my kids as quiet after an assembly so I think it’s really got the message across.”
Children at Parkside, King James I Academy, Bishop Barrington, Wolsingham, Teesdale and Staindrop schools were taught about the body’s short term involuntary response to sudden immersion in cold water.
Mrs Gosling said: “To have had pupils coming up to me after the assemblies and contacting me on Facebook – all to say thank you, shows just how worthwhile these assemblies have been.
“As I told the students, I sincerely hope I won’t be having to contact any of their parents to pass on my condolences this summer.”
The Safe Durham Partnership consists of the county council, CDDFRS, Durham Constabulary and other partners.
Cllr Joy Allen, the council’s cabinet member for safer communities, who spoke during one of the King James assemblies, said: “You could literally have heard a pin drop when Mrs Gosling spoke.
“It was clear from looking at students’ faces that her words were really hitting home.
“We want teenagers across the county to be aware of the dangers of cold water shock when they are out enjoying themselves in the sun this week and throughout the summer.”
Cold water shock assemblies may be held at schools elsewhere in the county in future.