Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the sad passing of Gareth Jones.
The 69-year-old died on January 16, 2021 while trying to save the family dog from high tides in the Hove Lagoon area.
Now determined to ‘turn a disaster into something positive’, Gareth’s son Robbie Jones, who lives in Southsea, is supporting a school project to educate young people about the dangers of water.
Along with Becky Knights, EYFS and primary school teacher, Robbie, 25, helps children learn how to stay safe by the sea.
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Becky was inspired by Gareth’s story to use her background as an educator for a new sea safety project, and approached Robbie to ask if he would endorse her campaign.
Robbie said: “She wanted to use Gareth’s tragic story to do something positive.
“She set up this project for primary school children. It’s very interactive – spot the signs, find out what they mean, educate people about the tide times.
“They can even dress up as lifeguards.
“I went back to a school in Hove in a few weeks and made it really real – it makes the kids say ‘wow’. I don’t teach, but I’m here to help children.
The Sea Safety Project has now been running for a few months, and Robbie and Becky are encouraged by the level of commitment they have seen from the students so far.
Robbie, who works in government administration, said: “It’s great to start at primary level – they’re very keen to learn at that age and they interact with water.
“Making sure the information is accessible is a simple thing we could do. It’s been good, it’s not something out of a textbook, it’s something real.
While lessons are currently being taught at schools in Brighton and Hove, Robbie says he would “absolutely” like to see the Maritime Safety Project rolled out to Portsmouth.
“I think he has a lot of legs. With time, resources and money in the future, it could be not just in Portsmouth, but across England and Wales,” he added.
“It got me thinking – I’ve lived by the sea since I was eight years old, and I was never taught the tides, the currents, the meaning of the signs, and I think that’s enough horrible.”
Robbie, who is inspired by his father and says he is “very proud to call him my father”, believes that it is “very much in my DNA to change and do something different”.
He said: “If there’s anything I can do to close this gap and save a life, that’s what I’m going to do.”
“If it can help save someone’s life, then I think it’s worth it.”
Robbie has two older sisters – Rhian, 34, and Gemma, 31 – and mum Shirley was married to Gareth for more than 30 years before her death.
Gareth “had time for absolutely everyone,” Robbie proudly recalls.
“He was curious about everyone’s life and he never looked down on anyone,” he said.
“He could go from suits to tracksuits very easily. I think people have always been impressed by that.
Passionate about politics, Gareth was very involved in the Labor Party and also loved music.
Robbie added: “He knew something about everyone and often people would go to him for advice.
“He was always helping – he was a great guy.”
While Gareth was originally from Cardiff, he lived most of his life in London before moving to Brighton – but had a lot of love for our own waterside town.
Robbie moved to Portsmouth in 2015 to study at university and has stayed since.
He said: “My dad loved Portsmouth, the history, the pubs, the values, the football club.”
“He would be very happy to be in the local paper.
To learn more about The Sea Safety Project, visit @sea_safety on Instagram.