'I didn't expect to die today': Heartbreaking film hopes to keep teenagers out of open water danger

17 June 2024, 16:34

'I didn't expect to die today': Heartbreaking film hopes to keep teenagers out of open water danger
'I didn't expect to die today': Heartbreaking film hopes to keep teenagers out of open water danger. Picture: Alamy / South Yorkshire Fire Service

By Seb Cheer

Sam Haycock was celebrating after his last day of school, a hot day in May 2021, when the 16-year-old visited Ulley Reservoir in Rotherham with friends.

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But after getting into difficulty in the water, Sam could not be saved by emergency services.

An emotional new film re-tells the story of his last day, in an effort by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to prevent young people needlessly drowning in open water.

Sam's father, Simon Haycock, told LBC the video is too difficult for him to watch: "I've got it up here [in my head]. I've spent a lot of time trying to forget that side of things so I can deliver the message that we need to.

My name is Sam Haycock and I did not expect to die today. Based on a true story.

Posted by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue on Monday, June 17, 2024

"That being said, I know the importance and I knew that it would be a powerful story, so by giving permission for it to be out there, it turns a negative into a positive."

Simon now runs the Sam's Army's Mission campaign, educating young people about the dangers of open water.

"Each and every time there's a report of a drowning [in the news], it's a stab in the heart. It fetches it all flooding back," he added.

Simon doesn't think enough teenagers realise how dangerous it can be to go into water, like reservoirs and rivers.

"We all make bad decisions at that age, but it's that message, 'if it can happen to Sam, it can happen to you'," he told LBC.

"Why put yourself in those situations where you're risking everything?

Simon Haycock now delivers training for schools, educating children on open water safety.
Simon Haycock now delivers training for schools, educating children on open water safety. Picture: South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

"I couldn't be mad at what Sam did, because as a young'un, I did it," he added, "and you don't realise the danger of it. That's the gamble when you're playing with open water."

The film is being released to mark Drowning Prevention Week, with recent data showing the number of accidental drowning deaths among children has doubled since 2019-20.

Russell Sanderson, from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue's community safety team, says these callouts have a long-term impact on emergency crews, as well as the victim's family and friends.

Sam's Story is being used by emergency services to spread awareness about the dangers of open water.
Sam's Story is being used by emergency services to spread awareness about the dangers of open water. Picture: South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

"Unfortunately I've been on incidents where people have lost their lives due to water. These things stick with you," he told LBC.

"For me, it's a pair of trainers.

"At the end of [an incident], we unfortunately couldn't rescue the person. Gathering together their belongings, and their friends taking those trainers home, is a real visual. It does stick with you.

"That's why we're trying to educate people. We don't want people to go through what we've seen, and we don't want families to go through what Simon's had to go through."

Russell Sanderson, from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue's community safety team, says these callouts have a long-term impact on emergency crews, as well as the victim's family and friends.
Russell Sanderson, from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue's community safety team, says these callouts have a long-term impact on emergency crews, as well as the victim's family and friends. Picture: South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

Simon thinks Sam would be "proud" of the changes the campaign has made: "I'm sure he'd love the fact that his name's been mentioned everywhere.

"Through his judo he thought he was famous.

"It's keeping a little bit of him alive and doing it in his memory," he told LBC, adding, "just sooner he'd be here."

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