As a summer heatwave continues throughout Wales, a mum who lost her son in a reservoir drowning incident has urged young people to avoid dangerous open water swimming.

Leeanne Bartley’s son, Mark Allen, died three years ago after he jumped into a reservoir on one of the hottest days of the year.

The budding actor had been spending the day swimming with a group of friends near Gorton in Greater Manchester.

Leeanne, from Ruthin, said it had been a “sweltering” day much like the weather this week. Neither she nor any other family members knew Mark had gone to the reservoir, until she received a phone call from the police to say her son was missing.

“We arrived in Gorton, and the police said to me: ‘We’ve got him – we’ve got his body,’” Leeanne said. “I just fell to the floor. I don’t remember anything after that point.”

On a hot day, it can be tempting – especially for groups of young people – to visit open water spaces like reservoirs to cool off. But the temperature of the water can be much lower than expected, and even strong swimmers can find themselves in cold water shock and unable to swim. Reservoirs often have structures below the surface that are invisible from above, posing another hazard for people who dive in.

“I don’t think young people understand the dangers,” Leeanne said. “I also think they maybe feel invincible – that they’re stronger than the water and it won’t happen to them.”

READ MORE:

Leeanne said Mark and his friends were at the reservoir for “innocent fun” but his “split-second decision” to jump into the water on that day in 2018 “cost him his life”.

Remembering her son, Leeanne said: “He knew how to make everyone laugh. He was really caring.

“He loved life, he wanted to travel, and wanted to change the world in his own way.

“He wanted to help people – and this is why we tell his story now – this way he still can. He’s still helping people.”

As well as raising awareness about the dangers of open water swimming, Mark’s family is also campaigning for political change to improve safety at reservoirs and install potentially life-saving equipment.

At the reservoir where Mark died, three throwlines – a type of rescue rope – have been installed in his memory, along with more signs warning would-be swimmers of the risks.

But the teenager’s family is calling on the Welsh and UK governments to introduce 'Mark Allen's Law' and make it a legal requirement that throwlines be installed at all reservoirs.

The online petition to the Welsh Government – which requires 10,000 signatures to be considered for debate in the Chamber – has currently collected 6,000 names.

The online petition to the UK government – which would need 100,000 people to sign it to trigger a potential House of Commons debate – has just passed 54,000 signatures.

Leeanne is grateful for the “incredible reaction” to the family’s campaigning and believes there is an appetite for change.

“There is a desperate need for locked and coded throwline stations,” she said. “A lot of people say to us that the safety equipment will get thrown into canals and rivers, but the ones we’re asking for are in locked cabinets. You call the fire service and get the code, which also alerts the fire service that someone’s in trouble.”

The throwlines were installed at the Gorton reservoir after Mark’s death, and Leeanne said there is now an opportunity for decision-makers to act before any more people die in such tragic circumstances.

“We’re asking for the government to be pro-active, rather than reactive,” she said.

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.