Published: 15:52, 23 June 2021
| Updated: 10:34, 24 June 2021
A helicopter landed in a school field to mark the start of a water safety campaign in memory of a boy who died tragically in a Kent river.
Warden House Primary in Deal became the first in the country to be part of the 'lifejacket library' this morning.
It means families heading out to rivers and lakes - or on kayaks in the sea - can borrow a lifesaving buoyancy aid to keep little ones safe.
The scheme is in memory of six-year-old Lucas Dobson, who died after falling into the River Stour at Sandwich on Saturday, August 17, 2019.
He had been playing on the river bank with family friends when he fell into the water between a jetty and a moored boat.
Almost immediately he vanished from sight, pulled along by what his father later described as a “surprisingly strong current”.
A desperate search was mounted involving police, specialist divers and thousands of volunteers from the wider community.
Vigils were held in towns across the coast but sadly Lucas was found dead four days later on Wednesday, August 21.
He had drowned in what a coroner ruled was a tragic accident.
His death led to an outpouring of grief.
Desperate to do something positive following Lucas’ death, his father Nathan Dobson pledged to raise awareness of water safety and the importance of wearing life jackets near water.
On October 17, 2019, The Lucas River Safety Campaign was launched with the aim of creating a "library ticket" scheme in schools for children to borrow a life jacket when visiting areas of open water.
"It has certainly meant a great deal to Lucas' friends and classmates to be involved..."
The crowdfunding page raised almost £10,000.
Behind the scenes Mr Dobson was working with Peter Faulding, chief executive of Specialist Group International.
This was the forensics company brought in by Kent Police to scour the river for Lucas during the desperate days of searching.
It was SGI's team of six divers that found his body close to where he had gone missing.
The lifejackets, in orange and Lucas' favourite colour red, bear his picture and the slogan, Lucas Dobson Water Safety Campaign.
Warden House Primary was Lucas' school.
Mr Faulding flew his R44 Raven II helicopter onto the school field and in what was an emotional start to the water safety campaign, Mr Dobson got out bearing 10 lifejackets for Lucas's fellow schoolmates and had pictures taken with the boy's classmates, now the Y3 Polar Bears Class.
Some of Lucas' best friends wore the lifejackets including: Errol Junior Clarke, Louis Miller, Louis Baxter, William Pemberton, Ashley Shaw and Riley Medhurst.
Mr Faulding told us the initial response from the children was excitement at seeing the helicopter, but it was "all brought home to them" with a poignant sadness at seeing Lucas' face on the lifejackets.
He said: "It was quite heart wrenching to see Nathan sat on the memorial bench."
"It's been a fantastic response. Everyone was beaming and the teachers said thank you for what were both doing because this is highlighting Drowning Awareness Week.
"Hopefully we can get the awareness out there."
Mr Faulding wants to get lifejackets for every school in Britain.
He added: "This isn't a one-off, I'll be back down in Deal next week taking more lifejackets to another school."
Head teacher Rob Hackett said: "It has been a poignant and special day for the whole Warden House community. It has certainly meant a great deal to Lucas' friends and classmates to be involved.
"We are pleased to support the launch of the Water Safety Campaign and will do all we can to continue to highlight the importance of keeping safe around water with our children.
"Warden House has now been provided with ten life jackets that are available for families to borrow should they be planning to take part in water-based activities with their children."
The second school to benefit from the life jacket library is Davenport School in Foxborough Hill, Eastry. The school offers a differentiated curriculum for children with Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs.
The charity has spent £13,000 on the life jackets collected from Mr Dobson's crowdfunder, a £2,500 donation from Mr Faulding and money raised from a talk about the crime and body search forensics his company performs which he gave at the Astor Theatre last year.
She also wants life-saving buoyancy rings near rivers, lakes and seas.
You can donate to the Lifejacket Library scheme through its website by clicking here.