Family of tragic Sheffield student back canal safety campaign

The Canal and River Trust's Tom Wright, Kevin Young and Anthony Walker with local bar owner Richard Henderson launch the #DontDrinkandDrown Campaign at Victoria Quays
The Canal and River Trust's Tom Wright, Kevin Young and Anthony Walker with local bar owner Richard Henderson launch the #DontDrinkandDrown Campaign at Victoria Quays

The family of a young man who drowned in a Sheffield canal have backed a new safety campaign timed to coincide with the Christmas party season.

Sheffield Hallam University student Alex Wilson, aged 19, was found dead in the water at Victoria Quays after going missing following a night out in July last year.

Alex Wilson

Alex Wilson

He is one of three men whose bodies have been found in the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal basin in recent years.

READ MORE: Body found in water at Victoria Quays

In December 2015, 20-year-old Adam Miles, from Killamarsh, was pulled from the water after disappearing during a Christmas party.

And in September this year, the body of a 40-year-old man, who has not yet been named, was discovered at the same spot.

Ian Wilson and his daughter Emma close to the spot where Alex's body was found

Ian Wilson and his daughter Emma close to the spot where Alex's body was found

On Friday, representatives from the Canal & River Trust gathered at Victoria Quays to promote the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s Don’t Drink and Drown campaign.

READ MORE: Sheffield student had been drinking on night he died, court hears

They urged people not to take any chances by walking home near water after drinking.

Of the 12 accidental drownings in South Yorkshire over the last five years, according to the trust, a third of the victims had alcohol in their blood.

Tom Wright, the trust’s development and engagement manager for Yorkshire and the North East, said: “Having a few drinks in one of the great waterside bars and pubs in Sheffield is a great way to enjoy the festive season.

READ MORE: Petition launched to improve safety after second death in two years at Sheffield canal basin

“But when you’re on your way home, particularly in the dark, please take extra care. If you and your friends have had a few drinks, don’t walk home by water; find another route.”

He also urged friends to look out for one another during a night out and make sure everyone gets home safely.

He said men are more likely to become victims, as they often head home separately whereas women tend to do so together.

As well as putting up banners around the canal and other danger spots, beer mats and wristbands are being handed out as part of the campaign to drum home the message.

Alex Wilson’s father Ian told how since his death family and friends have taken extra precautions to make sure everyone gets home safely following a night out and he urged others not to take any risks.

“People need to be aware of the dangers and keep away from water when they’ve been drinking,” he said.

“We don’t want other families to go through what we’ve had to go through.”

New lights and extra life rings have been installed at Victoria Quays since Alex’s death but his family still believe there could be more and larger warning signs.