Cold water shock kills – that’s the simple yet hard-hitting message a new campaign aims to get across to County Durham teenagers this summer.
As groups of friends make for the county’s rivers, lakes, reservoirs and quarries over the coming months focused only on enjoying themselves, many will be unaware of the dangers posed by the temperature of the water before they enter.
Yet cold water shock, the body’s short term involuntary response to being suddenly immersed in cold water, can be fatal. The Safe Durham Partnership (SDP), supported by the family of County Durham cold water shock victim Cameron Gosling, has launched ‘Dying to be Cool’ – a campaign which will seek to get this message across.
The partnership, made up of Durham County Council, Durham Constabulary and Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service and other partners, is targeting ten to sixteen year olds and will be rolling out a poster campaign through schools and social media.
Representatives from the partnership will also visit schools to deliver assemblies on the dangers of cold water shock.
They will be showing pupils a video shot at the spot where Cameron died, featuring some of his friends who were with him at the time and his mum Fiona.
Fourteen year old Cameron, a pupil at Parkside Academy in Willington, went to the River Wear near Bishop Auckland with friends on a sunny day in July 2015. Without acclimatising himself, he jumped into the water, got into difficulties and died.
Fiona, who is pushing for water safety to be added to the national curriculum under the hashtag CampaigningforCam, said: “Cameron’s friends had paddled in the water before swimming but he jumped straight in and his body went into shock as a result of the sudden change in temperature.
We want to educate young people on this little known killer and fully support what Dying to be Cool is trying to achieve.
One of Cameron’s best friends, thirteen year old Matty Wraith, was part of the group which went into the river, and tried to save him. He said: “I jumped in after him. I was with him and then we went under a few times and then he just went.
Sudden immersion in cold water can cause blood vessels in the skin to close which makes it harder for blood to flood around the body. The heart then has to work harder and blood pressure increases.
At the same time there is a “gasp” response which can result in water being breathed rather than air.
The breathing rate also changes dramatically – it can increase by as much as tenfold. All these responses contribute to a feeling of panic. One effect of cold water shock can be cardiac arrest, while death can occur.
Rachael Shimmin, who is chair of the SDP and corporate director of children and adults services at the county council, said: “We want young people to enjoy the outdoors this summer but believe it is vital that they go near water fully aware of the risks of cold water shock.
“Through Dying to be Cool our aim is to educate as many teenagers as possible about what can happen when they go into cold water without acclimatising themselves. If what we are doing stops just one young boy or girl getting into difficulty it will have been worthwhile.”
More information on the new campaign can be found at