Published 22 April 2024

Parents who lost son in drowning incident support Be Water Aware

The parents of a boy who drowned while swimming with friends a river in 2021 are sharing his story to help prevent accidental drownings.

The powerful video ‘Thando’s Story’ is being shared as part of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware campaign week which runs from 22nd April. With 52% of accidental drownings in 2022 occurring between May and August the campaign aims to raise awareness of the risks ahead of warmer weather.

Thandolwethu Ndlovu, otherwise known as Thando, was near Swarkestone Bridge in Derbyshire when he entered the water and got into difficulty in July 2021 and lost his life, just two days after his 15th birthday.

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service (DFRS) partnered with Jabulani and Nombulelo Ndlovu to make ‘Thando’s Story’ to warn school children about the dangers of open water and to remind parents and carers of the importance of water safety for young people.

Thando’s mother, Nombulelo Ndlovu, said:

“I feel like I taught him everything but that’s one thing I forgot to teach him about. It is the hardest thing ever so let’s just try and talk to our children. If it happened to him it can happen to anyone, I don’t want any other child to be the next victim.”

Although Thando did have some swimming ability open water can present addition risks for those not experienced in outdoor swimming such as cold water shock, hidden debris and water currents.

Group Manager, Darren Pick from Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service, said:

“Year on year we see people drown by underestimating the risks associated with open water.

“What I would ask is parents, guardians, carers please have the conversation about water safety. It’s still a massively misunderstood risk. Even though the water looked calm and safe on the day, tragically that wasn’t the case. And tragically we continue to attend events like this that are preventable.”

A spokesperson for the Black Swimming Association (BSA), commented:

“The BSA takes a commitment to water safety incredibly seriously. We know from the BSA’s ground-breaking #OurSwimStory research into the barriers to swimming for adults (conducted in 2023) that lack of water safety knowledge is an issue that precludes many adults and children in ethnically diverse communities from being safe in and around water. We also know from other research that many children (including a greater proportion from ethnically diverse backgrounds) aren’t aware of the Water Safety Code and the potentially vital life-saving information it contains.”

Find out more about Be Water Aware