County Durham’s grandfather campaigns for water safety education after grandson drowns at sea


The grandfather of a teenager who died swimming in the sea last month said more needs to be done to prevent similar tragedies from happening.

Anthony Bell, of Blackhall near Peterlee in County Durham, believes water safety should be taught in schools and young people should be made aware of dangers in plain language.

Anthony’s grandson Matthew Sherrington tragically lost his life while playing with friends at Hartlepool on July 15. It was the last time he was seen until July 22, when his body was found at Steetley Pier.

Read more:Grandfather and granddaughter rescued from drowning in River Wear near the National Glass Center in Sunderland

Anthony is now determined to save more families from devastation.

He said: “It was horrible. I was waiting to take him to his first football game because I am a Sunderland fan.

“Nothing will bring Matthew back, but I just want to spread the word, that’s all I want. Something has to be done. I just want the awareness to be awakened.

“It’s a beautiful beach, but there are a lot of beaches in this area that don’t have lifebuoys or lifeguards and there should be more going on there. It’s been like that for years. .

“Where Matthew died there are lifebuoys but they are in the dunes and can be up to 400 yards from the water when the tide is low. They should be in the open air.”

Floral tributes left in memory of 15-year-old Matthew Sherrington at the scene of his death in Hartlepool

Anthony hopes to get permission to go to schools in the Northeast and talk to kids about the dangers of water.

He believes a firm approach is needed to get the message across.

He added, “I’ve always found that I can communicate with children. Someone has to do something. You have to get right to the point.

“I was like, ‘You’re sitting next to your friends, would you like it if you went swimming with them and they just disappear and die?’

“I don’t mind paddling, that’s when they come out of their depth, that’s where the danger lies. I was down at the pier where Matthew died and saw a woman holding the hand of a child and with a baby in the other – one the wave could have hit them and she could have lost the baby. “

On July 25, three days after Matthew’s body was discovered, hundreds of people gathered at Steetley Pier to pay their respects to the teenager.

Family, friends, RNLI and members of the public came to pay their respects to the Manor Community Academy student, and a number of biodegradable balloons were released. Floral tributes were also left at the scene.

A fundraising page has been created to help the family pay for Matthew’s funeral.

Jennifer Sherrington, who created the GoFundMe page, said: “Matthew was a 14 year old boy, with his whole life ahead of him.

“On Thursday July 15, 2021 Matthew was playing in the sea with friends and it was the last time he was seen until July 22, 2021 when he was found at Steetley Pier.

“We are absolutely overwhelmed by our beautiful boy who was kidnapped far too early.

Matthew's family stood on the shore
Matthew’s family stood on the shore

“We’re trying to help ease the pressure of his parents’ funeral expenses as they mourn and come to terms with the fact that Matthew is suddenly taken.”

People can donate to fundraising here.

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