Sam Haycock: Family of boy who drowned in South Yorkshire reservoir vow to keep memory alive with annual event

A grieving dad, whose teenage son drowned at a South Yorkshire reservoir a year ago, has vowed to keep his memory alive by turning a water safety-themed fun day into an annual event.

Tuesday, 31st May 2022, 3:09 pm

Sam Haycock had visited Ulley Reservoir in Rotherham with friends on May 28 last year when he got into difficulty in the water.

Emergency services responded to the incident, and specialist search teams made a desperate attempt to find him, but sadly the Rotherham 16-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene, having drowned.

Since then, Sam's loved ones have set up 'Sam's Army Mission' – a group which campaigns for extra measures to be taken to ensure other people are safer around reservoirs.

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Samuel Haycock had visited Ulley Reservoir in Rotherham with friends on May 28 last year when he got into difficulty in the water.

On the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, the group held an event at Clifton Park in Rotherham on Saturday, May 28, with around 10,000 people showing up to show their support.

Sam's dad, Simon Haycock, said he was 'humbled' and 'overwhelmed' by the amazing turnout and pleased that they have raised over £3,000 to help buy more life saving equipment to be distributed to reservoirs and lakes in the area.

He said on the day of the event, they had numerous stalls that sold sweets, arts and crafts and old fashion games that were run by Sam's friends.

And the most important part of the event was, he said, the involvement from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, St John's Ambulance, Water Search and Rescue and Yorkshire Lowland Search and Rescue, among others.

An estimated 10,000 people turned up at Clifton Park last Saturday to show their support. Picture by Sams army’s mission 1 life Facebook Page.

Simon said: "We wanted to give people the opportunity to come and talk to them and understand and learn what to do if they are ever in that situation…. It was a very educational fun day and getting the message on water safety across was really important."

Sam’s Army Mission also presented a cheque for £3,000 to buy life saving-equipment for Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council at Ulley.

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‘Bittersweet’ experience

Rotherham Councillor Michael Bennett-Sylvester accepting a cheque for £3,000 from Sam’s Army Mission for life saving equipment for Rottherham Metropolitan Borough Council at Ulley. Picture taken from Councillor Michael Bennett-Sylvester Facebook page.

He told, however, how remembering his son one year on since the tragedy in a positive and fun way was 'bittersweet' to him.

He said: "I deliberately did it on that day to keep everybody busy with positive vibes. As a family, we celebrated Sam once we came home at night with friends and some of Sam's friends."

He said this was when they let off fireworks and some blue flares, to remember Sam and to celebrate his life.

Simon added: "We are trying our best to do in his memory so we don't let this happen to other people. It's a shame that such a positive day has come from something really tragic."

He said he has already booked May 27 next year as he wanted 'to keep this an annual event', but with further improvements.

He said: "The one we had the other day far exceeded everybody's expectations and it's all been very positive. We are trying to make it bigger and better from here.

"I just want to say thank you to everybody. We are just one family that's gone through a tragedy, and I'm truly humbled by the support of the authorities who came to support us.

"I want to keep learning and potentially put things in place that can save people's lives. We are going to keep going."