A mother whose teenage daughter died after being swept out to sea by a freak wave is backing an annual campaign.
The RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign is aiming to halve accidental coastal deaths.
Figures released today (Thursday) show 22 people lost their lives around the north of England’s coast last year.
In January, 15-year-old Caitlin Ruddy, from Newcastle, was swept off the pier in Cullercoats Bay while with three friends. She died in hospital, despite attempts to save her by Cullercoats RNLI and a member of the pubic.
Her mother Sabrina Cook said: “Caitlin’s death has devastated us and nothing can ever bring her back, but I am hoping that other people might learn something from what happened to her.
“None of us realised just how powerful and deadly the sea can be, but it took Caitlin from us. I hope people listen to the RNLI’s message and treat water with respect.”
As well as 22 deaths, a further 62 people were involved in near-fatal incidents in the region last year, but were fortunately rescued by the RNLI’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards.
The figures are released as the charity enters the third year of its national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water.
The RNLI is renewing its warning about the dangers of cold water, slips and falls, rip currents and waves.
Almost half (48 per cent) of the 122 people who died at the coast between 2011 and 2014 never planned to enter the water, but were taking part in activities such as coastal walking and running.
Helen Williams, RNLI community incident reduction manager for the north of England, said: “Caitlin’s death was a tragic accident, but as these figures show, many other people are needlessly dying each year at the coast.
“RNLI lifeboat crews and lifeguards save hundreds of lives, but, sadly, not everyone can be saved.
“We lose an average of 24 lives around the north of England’s coast each year and the real tragedy of the situation is that many of these deaths could have been prevented.
“Cold water is a real killer. People often don’t realise how cold our seas can be – even in summer months the sea temperature rarely exceeds 12c, which is low enough to trigger cold water shock.
“If you enter the water suddenly at that temperature, you’ll start gasping uncontrollably, which can draw water into your lungs and cause drowning. The coldness also numbs you, leaving you helpless – unable to swim or shout for help.
“We’re warning people to stay away from cliff edges, particularly where there is slippery, unstable or uneven ground; stick to marked paths and keep an eye on the water – watch out for unexpected waves.”
“If you’re planning to get into the water be aware that, even if it looks calm on the surface, there can be strong rip currents beneath the surface, which can quickly drag you out to sea. The sea is powerful and can catch out even the strongest and most experienced swimmers.”
The RNLI is asking people to visit RNLI.org/RespectTheWater where they will find information on how to stay safe.