Pupils from school where boy drowned in Thames visit fire station as London Fire Brigade calls for push on water safety

On 18th July 2022, Brian Sasu, 14, went with friends to a popular swimming spot at Tagg’s Island in Richmond on one of the hottest days of the year after schools closed early. After jumping from a bridge into the water below, Brian went missing and an extensive search and rescue operation began. Sadly, Brian drowned and his body was recovered the next day.

Pupils from Brian’s school, St Mark’s in Hounslow, were invited alongside his family to Twickenham Fire Station for a water safety event provided by the Brigade’s Education team and local firefighters. The session for Year 7 pupils is designed to help them stay safe when spending time near water over the holidays. It forms part of the Brigade’s education programme, which delivers age-appropriate advice to help young people stay safe around fire, roads and water.

LFB’s Borough Commander for Richmond, Rob Davies, used Twickenham’s new Big River Flume Demonstration Tank to show pupils hidden dangers within the Thames. The tank, donated by JBA Trust, includes a hydraulic flume with a range of natural and man-made river features such as bridges, rocks and weirs. The tank visually highlights how water behaves in rivers and provides a powerful demonstration of the associated risks. The group were also shown how to use throwlines by local Fire Cadets, which can be used to help rescue a person in difficulty in the water.

Brian’s father, George, who attended the event alongside his family, said, “It’s been great working alongside London Fire Brigade to get our message out there and see schools place importance on water safety education and young people practicing with throwlines. I want parents and schools to talk to children about the dangers of open waters so that what happened to Brian won’t happen to their own children. If they’re spending time near the riverside with the warmer weather, please tell them that if they are going swimming, not to jump in because it’s so dangerous.”

The Brigade are beginning work to expand delivery of their water safety sessions to further year groups. Additionally, the Brigade has contacted all of London’s local authorities, asking them to carry out risk assessments along their waterways to ensure that life-saving equipment is available, well-maintained and if necessary, procured. The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames has installed 17 throwline boards since Brian’s death, including one in his memory, in addition to clearer warning signs.

Assistant Commissioner for Prevention and Protection, Craig Carter, said, “What happened to Brian was a tragedy that we hope is never repeated. It’s a sad statistic that the risk of drowning in England increases as children reach their teenage years, and that teenage boys are the most likely group to accidentally drown. The risks of drowning are especially heightened when schools break up for summer. Today’s event shows the importance of the work our education team does with schools, getting important safety messages out to young people and equipping them with lifesaving advice to help prevent future tragedies. We’re also asking parents and carers to take a minute to explain the risks of jumping into water and open water swimming. It’s incredibly dangerous and children are often encouraged by their peers. Even in the summer when the weather is warm, the water temperature can bring on cold water shock which can cause panic, anxiety, disorientation and loss of muscular control. These reactions can then prompt a person to gasp for air, inhaling water. Our advice is rather than struggling, 'float to live'. Tilt your head back with your ears submerged and gently move your hands to help you stay afloat. Spread your arms and legs out – it's OK if your legs sink. Once your breathing is under control, call for help or swim to safety.”

Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and the Fire Service, Jules Pipe, said, “When temperatures soar, it’s tempting to cool off in open water but swimming in the Thames, London’s canals and waterways can be extremely dangerous. That’s why London Fire Brigade’s life-saving education programme to help young people stay safe around water this summer is so important. Brian Sasu was just 14 when he drowned swimming in the Thames and it is vital we do all we can to prevent a further tragedy. We are hugely grateful to Brian’s family for supporting LFB’s campaign to educate young Londoners and save lives.”

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