IN THE wake of recent tragedies and the latest emergency search of York's River Ouse, The Press is relaunching its river safety campaign.
The Press launched Think, Don't Swim in 2011 following the death of Richard Horrocks, aged 22, who jumped into the Ouse and tried to swim across after his final shift at a riverside bar.
Vicki Horrocks, Richard's mother who supported Think, Don't Swim, has joined friends and relatives of Megan Roberts and Ben Clarkson to back the new campaign, TAKE CARE.
York St John University student Megan, 20, went missing following a night out with friends on January 22. She went into the River Ouse close to Lendal Bridge in the early hours of the following morning, but her body was not found until March 2.
Megan's mother Jackie Roberts, who is also backing an awareness drive by the Royal Life-Saving Society to highlight safety when drinking around open water, said she hoped TAKE CARE could help prevent another family going through what she has experienced.
She said: "Another family's life is ruined because someone's gone in the river. I can't believe it's happened again.
"What happened to my daughter is absolutely devastating, life-changing. My life and family will never be the same again. She would have done something good with her life. She was a beautiful girl who had a lot to look forward to and I can't explain how unbearable it is living without her."
Music shop worker Ben Clarkson, 22, started to walk to his Heworth Green home following a night out in the early hours of March 2. His body was found in the River Foss on March 21.
His girlfriend Rachel Peatfield who led the search for Ben while he was missing, said she had been shocked to hear that another young person had disappeared after entering one of the city's rivers.
"It seems unreal because it seems to be one after another. Every circumstance has its own reason and each is a potential tragedy. This is potentially the third death in York's rivers in three months.
"Waking up and seeing the story online, seeing police on the river and seeing photos, it was just like reliving it again. It was just unreal, like the same articles with a different name. It's worrying and obvious that something needs to be done, starting with the basics, with awareness."
Rachel said the most important thing was to ensure people understood how dangerous the rivers can be, and the need for care around open water at all times.
"People need to realise the rivers are dangerous and we need to educate people. It's very easy to say 'put barriers up' but people make decisions so if we can change the way of thinking that's going to have more impact.
"TAKE CARE is an important campaign because any campaign trying to save someone's life is positive, and if we can save someone's life it can be a fitting tribute to Ben. I'm completely behind anything that might stop someone else's family going through what I went through."
Superintendent Phil Cain, York Safer Neighbourhood Commander, said: “The River Ouse and the River Foss may not appear to be dangerous, but as the recent events have shown, entering them either by choice or by accident can have fatal results.
"Both rivers, while they may look harmless, can have strong undercurrents and are often much colder than you may realise and both of these factors can lead to people finding themselves in serious danger.
“While numerous aspects of river safety are being looked at by the relevant organisations, education is key, and by highlighting just how devastating the loss of a daughter, son, partner or friend can be, I hope we can help avoid future tragedy.
"North Yorkshire Police support The Press’ campaign to highlight the dangers of the city’s rivers and encourage greater awareness of river safety to all York residents.”
Dave Benson, founder of York Rescue Boat - a bid to raise funds to launch a river safety boat for busy nights, said he felt "disbelief" when he heard a third person had gone into the river, and was keen to join our campaign.
"I think any way of highlighting the risk and danger around the rivers can't be anything but a good idea."
Kim Lancaster, who was at university with Megan, launched an online petition to call for better safety measures around the River Ouse and has also backed our campaign, and said education is part of the solution.
She said: "How much does a life cost? A life is priceless. If there were barriers there, this might never have happened it affects a lot of people not just the person who goes into the river."
Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner , said her thoughts were with the family and friends of the missing man, and the PCC would work with The Press and all agencies involved in river safety in the city to focus their combined efforts on preventing another tragedy.
A City of York Council spokeswoman said: "We welcome this campaign which complements our ongoing work with local agencies to provide support and safety advice through the joint emergency plan which we maintain, develop and exercise to prevent river-related incidents where we can."