County Durham Olympic silver medallist rower Jessica Eddie is encouraging young people to think twice before jumping into rivers as the warm summer weather continues.
Jess, who is from Durham City, was part of Team GB’s staggering success in Rio earlier this summer, with her second placed finish in the women’s coxed eight helping Great Britain to second behind only the United States in the final medal table.
The former Durham St Leonard’s Catholic School pupil has now thrown her weight behind the Safe Durham Partnership’s Dying to be Cool summer campaign, which aims to raise awareness among 10 to 16 year olds of the potentially fatal risks of jumping into rivers and other water courses without acclimatising.
The campaign was launched on the back of the death of 14 year old County Durham teenager Cameron Gosling, who lost his life as a result of cold water shock after jumping into the River Wear without getting used to the temperature in July 2015.
Jess learnt to row on the River Wear, with Durham Amateur Rowing Club her first as a teenager, and is acutely aware of the dangers rivers and other water courses pose.
And in a message to county teenagers, the role model said: “Rivers are such a busy and life giving environment, I know because I spend all my time rowing around on them!
“They are however untamed and wild, just as you wouldn't start climbing up a cliff unaided, you certainly shouldn't think about jumping or crossing a river without any expertise or knowledge.
“They are dangerous places, with freezing temperatures as well as tides and currents, which most of the time are invisible from the bank.
“Enjoy the river from the bank and always think twice about making reckless decisions!” Jess’ message and support has been welcomed by the Safe Durham Partnership, which includes representatives from Durham County Council, Durham Constabulary and County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service.
Cllr Joy Allen, the council’s portfolio holder for safer communities, said: “Everyone in County Durham was immensely proud of Jess when she won her medal in Rio.
“It is great that she is now willing to support us in seeking to get the message out to young people that rivers and other water courses are dangerous.
“We would encourage teenagers to take Jess’ words on board and to remember that although cold water might seem inviting in this warm weather, jumping in without acclimatising can kill.”
Cameron Gosling’s mum Fiona added: “I am delighted that Jess has taken time out of her busy schedule to help spread the word about water safety.
“With the weather we’re enjoying at the moment, we know teenagers will think swimming in rivers is a great idea but I’d say to them: please, don’t jump in without acclimatising.”
A Dying to be Cool video featuring Mrs Gosling and Cameron’s friends has reached well over a quarter of a million people, with the help of social media.
Water safety sessions have also been held for schoolchildren while campaign assemblies featuring Mrs Gosling and fire and rescue water safety teams were delivered to more than 3,300 pupils.
Jess, who was also an under-10s county champion at mini rugby with Durham RFC, won gold at the European Championships earlier this year and had achieved two top five finishes in the Olympics before her medal winning performance in Rio.