Grieving Ards family support RNLI campaign after their son drowns in pool
The heartbroken family and friends of a Co Down man who drowned on holiday in Portugal have backed a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of water.
The RNLI's 'Respect the Water' campaign, now in its fifth year, was launched at Bangor Marina yesterday and highlighted the FLOAT technique used to aid survival.
Lending their support, were Billy and Brenda Coates who lost their "popular and outgoing" son William (29) in May 2017.
The Bombardier employee, from Newtownards, had travelled with close friends to Albufeira to attend the stag do of childhood friend Joe Kingsberry, but tragically drowned after jumping into their hotel swimming pool.
The avid Arsenal fan had suffered a heart attack.
Following William's death, his mother and father were determined to raise awareness about cold-water shock.
The devastated parents were invited to discuss ideas with the RNLI and the charity's 'Respect the Water' campaign was suggested.
Over a year on from their son's death, Billy and Brenda said they are still struggling with the loss of their son.
"He was meeting friends who live in England that he hadn't seen in a while and was really excited about it," said mum Brenda.
"I know he was 29, but I'd ironed everything for him," she added.
"He got up really early to go to his friend's house and I gave him a hug, waved him goodbye and asked him to come home safe, and away he went. It's just terrible."
William's father Billy remembers vividly hearing about his son's death.
"I'd been out that day, came back into the house and realised I'd left my mobile phone upstairs charging," he said. "The next minute, Brenda came running down the driveway."
"I'd just sat down for the night to watch TV and my younger son Andrew phoned me," Brenda added.
"I can still remember the phone call from him. I still hear it in my head all of the time."
Two of William's friends were so affected by his sudden death that they flew home before Billy and Brenda made the harrowing trip to bring their son back to Northern Ireland.
They were denied access to William until after the post-mortem, but when the time came to see their son, Billy said he couldn't take in what was happening.
"You're hoping against all hope that it's not him," he said.
"I even pulled down his top because he had an Arsenal tattoo [on his chest]. I wish we'd just had more time."
Childhood friend Aaron Vance (32), was on the stag do with William.
To help raise awareness, Aaron and RNLI lifeguard Charlie Murray, displayed the FLOAT technique that should be used in emergency situations.
"It's important for me to do the demonstration," he said. "I want to do it in memory of William.
"William's case is only one case of cold-water shock, out of many, but it's certainly made me think about running and jumping into a pool.
"It's great that they (the RNLI) are working with the family and us to get the story out there."
Mike Grocott, RNLI's area life saving manager, said that the campaign is vital to raise safety awareness.
"The campaign is about education and interaction.
"We identified a lot of trends and risks and started to educate directly about those risks which is where the FLOAT advice has come from," he said.
"Peoples' natural instincts are to thrash around and that can actually increase your chances of having a really tragic outcome."