Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of Gareth Jones’ sad passing.
The 69-year-old died on January 16, 2021, as he tried to rescue the family dog from high tides in the Hove Lagoon area.
Now, determined to ‘turn a disaster into something positive’, Gareth’s son Robbie Jones, who lives in Southsea, is backing a school project aiming to educate youngsters about the dangers of the water.
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With Becky Knights, an EYFS and primary teacher, 25-year-old Robbie has been helping children learn about how to stay safe by the sea.
The tragic death of Gareth, as well as others who have lost their lives on our coastline, led Becky to design the sea safety workshops.
Determined to help prevent such tragedies happening again, Becky decided to use her skills as an educator to develop and lead the new sea safety project – and approached Robbie to ask if he would endorse her campaign.
Robbie said: ‘She wanted to use Gareth’s tragic story to do something positive.
‘She’s put together this project for primary school kids. It’s very much interactive - spotting signs, finding out what they mean, making people aware of tide times.
‘They even get to dress up as a lifeguard.
‘I went in a few weeks back to a school in Hove, and make it really real - that gets the kids like, “wow”. I’m not teaching, but here to support the kids.’
The Sea Safety Project has now been running for a few months, and both Robbie and Becky are encouraged by the level of engagement they have seen from pupils so far.
Robbie, who works in government administration, said: ‘It’s great to start at primary level - they’re very keen to learn at that age and they’re interacting with the water.
‘Making sure information is accessible is a simple thing we could do. It’s been good, it’s not something out of a textbook, it’s something real.’
‘I think it’s got a lot of legs. With time, resources, and money in the future, it could be not just in Portsmouth but across England and Wales,’ he added.
‘It did make me think - I’ve lived by the sea since I was eight, and I’ve never been taught about tides, currents, what the signs mean, and I think that’s pretty awful.’
Robbie, who is inspired by his father and says he is ‘very proud to call him my dad’, believes that it is ‘very much in my DNA to make a change and do something different’.
He said: ‘If I can do something to bridge that gap and save a life, that’s what I’m going to do.
‘If this can help save one individual’s life, then I think it’s worth it.’
Robbie has two older sisters - Rhian, 34, and Gemma, 31 - and mum Shirley was married to Gareth for more than 30 years before his passing.
Gareth ‘had time for absolutely everyone’, Robbie remembers proudly.
‘He was inquisitive about everyone’s lives, and he never looked down on anyone,’ he said.
‘He could go from suits to tracksuits really easily. I think people were always in awe of that.’
With a keen interest in politics, Gareth was very involved in the Labour party, and also loved music.
Robbie added: ‘He knew something about everyone and often people would go to him for advice.
‘He’d always help out - he was a great guy.’
While Gareth was originally from Cardiff, he lived most of his life in London before moving to Brighton - but had a lot of love for our own waterfront city.
Robbie moved to Portsmouth in 2015 to study at the university, and has stayed ever since.
He said: ‘My father loved Portsmouth, the history, the pubs, the values, the football club.’
‘He’d be very happy to be in the local paper.’
Find out more about The Sea Safety Project by visiting @sea_safety on Instagram.