David Irwin's son Ross, 22, was killed when he fell into the River Wear, in Tyne and Wear, and drowned after a night out with friends, just two days before Christmas. Here is his story.
On December 22, 2016, Ross, his younger brother Jack and I went to the cinema to see Star Wars. It was an early Christmas present for the boys. That night, after the film, Ross stayed at our house and the next morning I dropped him off to work; that was the last time I saw him alive.
After work that night Ross went out to the River Bar in Fatfield, Washington, with his work colleagues for his Christmas party. Despite having cerebral palsy, he never let that affect his lifestyle of socialising and partying with friends. He spent that night drinking pints and shots.
The plan was for him to go back to his mum's that night after the pub, spend Christmas Eve and half of Christmas Day with her and then come back to mine for Christmas dinner, but he never made it. Ross left the River Bar at about 10.30pm having told his friends that he was going to get a taxi into Sunderland. The following morning (Christmas Eve) his body was found in the River Wear by a man walking his dog.
It seems that Ross decided to cross the road onto the river bank and went through a small gap in the fence. We believe he went over there to urinate because his belt and two top buttons were undone. He slipped, fell into the river and drowned.
I work as a crew manager for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, who were first on the scene. A few of my colleagues knew it was Ross as soon as they pulled his wallet out of his pocket.
I received a knock on the door from the police at 2pm on Christmas Eve to tell me my son had died. I was in disbelief; in utter shock. You feel as if you have been hit by a train. His mum Debbie and I arrived at the morgue an hour later to identify his body. It was devastating.
We buried him on January 9 – two days before his 23rd birthday. It's indescribable how you feel. I was suicidal for two months and had to take six months off work. It's like a dream still; it's hard to believe that he's not here. Debbie is finding it even more difficult – he was her only child, they were best friends. She has to walk past his bedroom every day.
Before Ross' death, we had planned a holiday to Tenerife with Jack and my wife Nicola, in February. We decided that we would still go because that's what Ross would have wanted, but it was far too soon. It was horrific and we just cried for three days because he should have been there. Ross was also looking forward to our summer holiday to Miami and Orlando, which we have cancelled because we didn't want to sit in the villa thinking that he should be with us. He also had days and weekends away booked with Debbie, as well as gigs, festivals and parties with his friends.
"I don't want Ross to have died in vain"
This year has been horrific, as we have had to deal with a lot of firsts – our first Mother's Day and Father's Day without our son. Christmas is also coming up and that is in our minds all the time. We decided that we didn't want to be at home for Christmas this year, as it will be too hard, so we are going away.
Everybody loved Ross. He was loving, caring, selfless and thoughtful about others. He had a fantastic personality and sense of humour and would make jokes about his disability. He would say "I'm disabled you know?" He never let it hold him back. He would do anything for anybody. He was extremely popular among his school, college and music friends. There were more than 200 people at his funeral. He had just been kept on full time at his job as a civil servant and was very excited about that.
I am now trying to raise awareness of the dangers of drink drowning and cold water shock.
People have got to let their friends know where they are going when they are leaving the pub. We have all done it, been down to the pub and wandered off. When you have got alcohol in your system you get a lot more confidence and that's why people are more likely to go to water when they are drunk.
I don't want Ross to have died in vain.
Posted: 8/29/2017 11:38:31 AM