Renfrewshire Council

MEDIA RELEASE: Aunts plead for young people to know dangers of swimming in rivers on the anniversary of William McNally's death

On the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of 13-year-old William McNally, his aunts, Jayne and Claire Drennan, paid tribute to him in a touching video that aims to make all young people aware of the dangers of swimming in open waters.

Please note that this article and video includes content that some people may find distressing.

William passed away on 5 June last year after getting into trouble in the water at the Clay Pits in Linwood, part of the River Gryffe, while swimming with friends. In the video, Jayne and Claire talk openly about the impact William's death has had on their family.

Jayne said: "William had been involved in an accident in the River Gryffe when he had been out with his friends that day and we we're contacted in the early hours of the Thursday morning and just told to get to the hospital.  When we got there, they said his injuries were catastrophic as he'd spent, what they called, a significant period of time stuck under the water and the damage to his brain was irreparable.

"The impact of losing William has been catastrophic on the whole family. There's a hole been blown through us that will never, ever, be able to be fixed. It is just a case of trying to get through the day really, and it's been that way for a year.

"My sister has lost her son. My niece and nephew have lost their brother. My parents have lost their grandson and we've lost a nephew."

Renfrewshire Council responded to the tragedy by placing seven new GPS signs at potentially dangerous areas along the River Gryffe as part of a drive to improve the safety of all waterways in Renfrewshire.

The new equipment is one of the first actions of the Renfrewshire water safety working group that brings together the council, the area's civil contingencies service, OneRen, Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Scottish Ambulance Service and Open Water Rescue.

Communities and housing convener, Councillor Marie McGurk, said the council commissioned the video featuring Jayne and Claire to help young people know the dangers of swimming in rivers and other bodies of water.

Councillor McGurk said: "William's death was a tragic accident, and this first anniversary of his passing is a harrowing reminder of the dangers swimming in open water can pose. In commissioning this video, we hope to make more young people aware that, no matter how tempting, swimming in rivers and other bodies of water can be dangerous.

"We have also installed new GPS signage around the river that make it easier for people to tell emergency services exactly where they are so they can respond as quickly as possible. The GPS signage also includes a life buoy, a throw-line rope and a reminder that people shouldn't swim in the river."

Jayne added her plea for young people to familiarise themselves with the signage and be aware of the dangers of the water swimming.

She said: "It's important to know where you are, know what's underneath you, and know how to use the nearby equipment, with signage and codes. Just familiarise yourself with where you are and try to know the risks a wee bit better. Just be more aware and look after each other and if somebody does get into difficulty, then get the right help as quickly as possible."

Sharron Drennan, William's mum, also made a plea for young people to look out for each other.

She said: "I want to thank everyone who tried to help William that day. William was, and still is, very much loved and adored. He is missed by everyone, which was made abundantly clear last year when Linwood came to a standstill for his funeral.

"I want to make a plea to all young people, please make sure your mum doesn't have to go through what I have. Please look out for each other and make sure all of your friends get home safely."

Chris Dalrymple, manager for communities and regulatory services at the council, said that preventing this kind of accident from happening again through improving water safety is something he and the council's partners are working together to ensure.

He said: "I've worked closely with Jayne and the family to try and provide them with whatever support they've required in the past year, including keeping them up to date with the additional safety measures and equipment that we've put in since William's passing.

"As chair of the working group, I'm aiming to ensure that, with our partners, we make our waterways as safe as possible, although we would always repeat that wild swimming is dangerous and should be avoided at all times.

"We'll continue to work hard to make improvements wherever possible and I hope that this new video will have an impact on our young people and make them think twice before entering the water in potentially unsafe places."

A new water safety policy has also been adopted by the council, which outlines how it will review and tackle water safety issues, consider the introduction of additional lifesaving equipment, educate the public, especially children and young people, about the dangers of open water, and how it will work with private landowners.

The working group also work closely as a partnership to educate young people about the dangers of open water swimming and will deliver presentations to schools, as well as in-person talks with local young people at known spots for open water swimming.

Sean Kersse, who works with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service as a liaison officer to councils, said: "Swimming in open waters, such as rivers, is very dangerous and we urge all young people to know the risks as well as how to keep safe. There is equipment available and signs indicating that it is not safe to swim in these rivers. Always familiarise yourself with the equipment and if someone does get into trouble in the water, use the life ring and throw-line rope and call emergency services, quoting the unique location number on the nearest sign."

Further information

Information on water safety initiatives in Renfrewshire

Published on Monday 6 June 2022

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