Published: 15:02, 11 June 2021
| Updated: 15:36, 15 June 2021
The tragic death of a six year-old boy who drowned in a river has prompted a life jacket loaning scheme to be launched to prevent further deaths.
Lucas Dobson from Deal 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.
He was true to his word and 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.
The crowdfunding page has 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.
Ahead of the official launch at Lucas’s school on Friday, June 18, Mr Faulding told KentOnline: “I have been wanting to do something similar to this for some time.
“I have always felt we need water awareness - it’s not on the school curriculum and I think it should be...”
“We deal with about 10 drownings of children a year.
“Lucas was the youngest we had dealt with so it was the hardest.
“I have always felt we need water awareness - it’s not on the school curriculum and I think it should be.
“After having discussions with Nathan we decided to try and get a life jacket campaign.
“Nathan and his friends raised money and I put some money to it as well.
“We contacted Baltic [a Swedish company that supplies life jackets]. They gave them to us at cost. Then we got them printed.”
The jackets, in red - Lucas’s favourite colour - and orange bear the Lucas Dobson Water Safety Campaign logo which includes a picture of the Warden House pupil.
Each school that receives a batch will be given eight life jackets.
Parents can request to loan them from their children’s schools on a library-like loan and return basis.
Mr Faulding added: “My intention is to get them to all schools and put them in with an awareness video which we are in talks about getting produced.”
He says the hidden dangers of the sea, rivers and lakes is not on the school curriculum but education is vital. Not just for children but for parents.
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.
In a separate campaign Lucas' mum Kirsty Furze has made steps to launch Lucas' Law to make it compulsory for children to wear lifejackets on boats.
She also wants life-saving buoyancy rings near rivers, lakes and seas.