Wigan borough sisters inspired by 'gentle giant' brother hope to save lives by promoting water safety

The sisters of a Wigan borough man who died while swimming have spoken about the importance of water safety to mark World Drowning Prevention Day.
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Haydn Griffiths, from Lowton, was just 23 when he died in July while going for a swim in the Irish Sea near Hoylake while on a first date.

He was a fitness enthusiast, a strong swimmer and a member of Leigh and Lowton Sailing Club since the age of six. He later held a power boat licence and worked on the safety and rescue boat for open water swimming.

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Megan and Brogan Griffiths with an RNLI crew from New BrightonMegan and Brogan Griffiths with an RNLI crew from New Brighton
Megan and Brogan Griffiths with an RNLI crew from New Brighton

Haydn was also selected to train on Great Britain’s national sailing squad and his name appears on a competition trophy along with Ben Ainslie.

His sister Megan said: “If it can happen to someone like Haydn, it can happen to anyone.”

Megan and sister Brogan have spoken out today – World Drowning Prevention Day – as new figures released by the RNLI show their lifeguards attended more than 10,000 incidents on beaches, aiding 13,758 people from July 25 to September 2 last year.

They want to highlight the importance of staying safe around the coast as schoolchildren across the UK enjoy the start of their summer holidays.

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Haydn GriffithsHaydn Griffiths
Haydn Griffiths

Megan said: “He was our gentle giant and had such a kind heart. We all miss him every day, but as a family we are determined that we allow our tragedy to help others.

"That is why we want to encourage everyone out there to stay safe – please listen to the RNLI and visit a lifeguarded beach. Only swim between the red and yellow flags and always tell someone where you are going and when you hope to be back.

“Have these conversations with your family and friends – make sure they know the potential dangers and that they know it can happen to anyone.”

RNLI crews from Hoylake and New Brighton carried out an extensive search for Haydn, but he could not be saved and his body was found on July 24 last year – the day before World Drowning Prevention Day.

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Megan and Brogan GriffithsMegan and Brogan Griffiths
Megan and Brogan Griffiths

Megan added: “We are so grateful to the hard-working volunteer RNLI crews at New Brighton and Hoylake for searching for Haydn and giving him the best possible chance and for supporting our family since.”

Megan and Brogan have supported the RNLI through fund-raising, including raising more than £1,000 through the charity’s Mayday Mile initiative.

They launched their own campaign named Stay Safe For Haydn and spoke in Westminster for a World Drowning Prevention Day event held in Parliament.

Connor Wray, an RNLI volunteer at New Brighton said: “I remember the tasking vividly as it was my first call out as an RNLI volunteer, the light was just fading and there was real sense of urgency. When you hear someone is in the water, there is no time to spare.

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“We searched extensively that night, alongside many other agencies. As time went on, you start to fear the worst and there was a sense of dread that we could be facing the outcome nobody wanted.

"It does have an impact on the crew when you can’t return a loved one to a family, but this is nothing in comparison to the heartbreak Haydn’s family were facing. The strength and resilience they have shown in his memory is incredible.

"Meeting them today is so very humbling and the fact they are using Haydn’s memory to make a positive difference and prevent others suffering like they have really is a testament to their courage as a family.”

Today marks the third World Drowning Prevention Day and the RNLI is reminding people how to stay safe while enjoying the beach.

The key summer safety advice to remember is:

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  • Visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags
  • If you get into trouble, Float to Live – tilt your head back with ears submerged and try to relax and control your breathing. Use your hands to help you stay afloat and then call for help or swim to safety if you can
  • Call 999 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard

Gareth Morrison, head of water safety at the RNLI, said: "Heart-breaking stories like Haydn’s really drive home the message that the sea is unpredictable, and tragedy really can happen to anyone, even those with huge experience around the water like Haydn.

"Now the weather is warming up, we expect to see a big increase in visitors to UK coastlines and unfortunately this does mean there is likely to be an increase in the number of incidents in the sea.

"Many of the incidents our lifeguards attend during the school holidays involve children and teenagers and we would urge everyone to be aware of the risks and know what to do in an emergency.

"Our main advice is to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. RNLI lifeguards will be patrolling around 245 beaches this summer to offer advice on how to stay safe and they are also there to help anyone who gets into trouble.

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"We want people to think about their own safety, take time to familiarise yourself with our advice and to share this with your friends and family.”

There were 226 deaths in the UK from accidental drownings in 2022, across inland and coastal locations. Of these, 41 were in July and 44 in August – more than twice the number than in any other month. Of the people who died, 40 per cent had no intention of entering the water.

World Drowning Prevention Day was established in 2021, following the adoption of a first-ever United Nations (UN) resolution on global drowning prevention

The RNLI played an important role in the adoption of the UN resolution, the first time drowning prevention had been acknowledged by the UN it its 75 year history, working closely with the governments of Ireland and Bangladesh who championed the resolution.

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