Dad praises installation of life-saving equipment on the River Tyne after his son drowned on a night out

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Nick Pope was left devastated in 2018 when his 19-year-old son drowned on a night out in Manchester.

His son Charlie, who was from Ponteland but studying in the city, was on his way back to his halls of residence when he lost his footing and fell into the water.

Since the tragic incident, his dad Nick has been determined to do everything he could to ensure other families did not have to experience the same grief that he has.

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Nick, who is also from Ponteland, has campaigned alongside Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) to provide water safety advice to local communities across the region.

Nick Pope (right) with firefighter Tommy Richardson from the TWFRS Education and Engagement team. Nick Pope (right) with firefighter Tommy Richardson from the TWFRS Education and Engagement team.
Nick Pope (right) with firefighter Tommy Richardson from the TWFRS Education and Engagement team.

Now the businessman has welcomed the decision by Newcastle City Council to install 14 life-saving throw-bags along the busy quayside in the city centre - representing an investment of £10,500 from the local authority.

He said: “Everybody naturally thinks that they can come to no harm and that they will never end up in the water.

“You think to yourself, it only ever happens to other people and other families. We thought that, until it happened to our family.

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“The one piece of advice I would give, is where you can, please avoid walking close to water on your way home.

“Choose another route. Even in Newcastle at the quayside on a night out, you don’t need to be close to the water.

Charlie Pope, from Ponteland, sadly drowned after a night out in Manchester. Charlie Pope, from Ponteland, sadly drowned after a night out in Manchester.
Charlie Pope, from Ponteland, sadly drowned after a night out in Manchester.

“If you do need to walk home near to the water, please make sure you are accompanied by someone just in case you get into difficulties.

“The throw bags initiative is incredibly important and impressive. It is already saving lives and people are alive today who would have died.

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“It is also fantastic to see that the local business communities have got involved to be trained and to look after the people visiting their community.”

Each throw-bag is attached to a board so if someone is in danger in the water, members of the public on the quayside can ring 999, ask for the fire service and they will be given a code to access the equipment.

The throw-bags can be accessed via a code from TWFRS. The throw-bags can be accessed via a code from TWFRS.
The throw-bags can be accessed via a code from TWFRS.

The bag can then be thrown to the casualty and used to pull them to safety, or at least hold them in position until the emergency services arrive at the scene.

The lifesaving equipment was installed earlier this year, with the 14 boards stretching from the Redheugh Bridge to The Cycle Hub at Newcastle’s Ouseburn.

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TWFRS have been running throw-bag training sessions with staff members at riverside businesses in the region for nearly four years and the service has welcomed the introduction of more throw-bags on the River Tyne.

Group Manager Steve Thomas, Head of TWFRS’s Prevention and Education Department, commented: “Unfortunately our fire boat is called into action a number of times throughout the year when people become distressed in our waterways.

“The majority of times these are avoidable accidents where people have lost their footing and ended up in the water.

“Other times people have found themselves in the waterways under the influence of drink or drugs, which could culminate in tragic circumstances.

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“These new throw-bags on the Newcastle quayside are a vital addition to the City’s water safety and drowning prevention armoury.

“I want to thank the city council for their investment and I know that they have already started saving people’s lives which is amazing.”

Christine Herriot, Director of Operations and Regulatory Services at Newcastle City Council, added: “The safety of everyone in our city is our absolute priority and we’re really pleased to be working with TWFRS on the installation and maintenance of these new throw lines.

“Of course we hope they are never needed, but these new pieces of life-saving equipment will help keep people safe if somebody does find themselves in the water.

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“Unfortunately, the previous lifebelts were often subject to vandalism and theft, and we hope these new ones provide greater reassurance for people as they enjoy our spectacular Quayside in the unlikely event they are required in an emergency.”

Since the introduction of the wider throwlines scheme almost four years ago across Tyne and Wear, seven people’s lives have been saved due to the equipment.

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