I’m not sure if I’ve ever blogged about what happened on the 24th July 2013. Not completely anyway. I’m sure people know some of the ins and outs of what happened, but this blog post will explain as to why I’m taking on the H2Only challenge, raising money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
The day started out like any other birthday (apart from the fact I was in France, but I have been abroad for my birthday before). I woke up early and then had to wait for my parents and brother to move before I could even contemplate opening my presents. When Kieran had finally appeared he didn’t even wish me a happy birthday until I prompted him to – his excuse was that he was too tired! So, I opened presents and Mum and I went to get ready to go to the pool. Kieran was going off to a youth club put on by Keycamp, and Dad was going to do whatever he does on holiday when Mum and I are sunbathing.
We met up for lunch and decided that we were all going to go to the beach that afternoon. I was in a bit of a strop because I wanetd to go and be near the lifeguards so I could look at them, but it was really crowded so we chose a spot about 500m away from them. We put down our towels, and Mum and I began to read our books whilst Dad and Kieran went down to the sea. Alongside reading, I was people watching. Kieran ran back up to get his goggles, and I could see him and Dad from where I was lying.
We couldn’t have been at the beach more than 15 minutes. Dad came running up saying that he couldn’t see Kieran. Mum just looked confused, asking ‘What do you mean?’ whereas I just planned on running into the sea to look for him. (That didn’t happen – I got to the water’s edge and didn’t like the look of the big waves). I told Mum to phone the emergency services, but when she made it down the beach a few minutes later, she told me that she didn’t know the number (for anyone going abroad, to France anyway, the number is 112). I dialled it and then spoke to a French woman who was there, asking her to speak to them as I realised I wouldn’t know enough French. She spoke to me afterwards and told me that there was a helicopter on its way.
During this time, Dad had run over to the lifeguard and he arrived back with them. It’s ironic in a messed-up way that I was able to watch the lifeguards from where we were. (I’d much rather have my brother back, and not have to had watch them). Mum just stood in shock, so the lifeguards spoke to me, asking me questions about what Kieran looked like, what swim shorts he was wearing. There were several people who had been in the same area as us, with wetsuits on – I think they’d been surfing – who were looking and watching, trying to see if they could spot Kieran somewhere out in the waves. The lifeguards started their search, going out with surfboards in the hope of finding him.
Time passed, but we had no real idea of how long. Dad went back to the campsite to get changed, in case he had to go somewhere with the Search and Rescue people, and informed Keycamp of what had happened. Mum, despite being in shock, still was aware of the medical aspect – if they did find Kieran alive after all the time that had passed, he’d have been severely brain-damaged. But it was unlikely that he’d still be alive. I was telling her otherwise, but deep down I knew that he wouldn’t have survived.
We’d got to the beach about 3pm and it was half 6 when we were taken to the coastguard/lifeguard hut on the beach, where Dad gave his statement. I remember everyone staring at us as we were driven there on the back of one of the lifeguard’s trucks, and it was sickening. After the initial helicopter search, people had lost interest and gone back to their own thing (which is fine by me), and then as we drove past they stop and stare. I always try to not look and think ‘how exciting’ when helicopters are involved as I know how it feels. But I do understand how other people would react – Kieran would have loved the drama and helicopters (especially as it was all for him!)
Dad had to give a statement to the chief lifeguard man, which had to be translated into French. The main problem was trying to explain what Kieran had been doing. I suppose he was ‘swimming’, yet he wasn’t. He was just splashing about, with Dad, and the water was no higher than my Dad’s chest (which would have been lower for Kieran). His feet didn’t leave the floor.
They stopped the helicopter search at 7pm as they needed to refuel but they kept up the search the next couple of days until he was found on the 27th. He’d been washed ashore during a storm, and a fisherman found him.
There are lots of other aspects to this story – everything my Aunt and Uncle did (they flew out to France), everything that the Keycamp people did, as well as all the waiting that happened. But those parts aren’t important as to why I’m wanting to raise money for the RNLI.
Yes, Kieran drowned but the lifeguards and coastguards in France did so much for us. They searched and searched up and down the coast to try and find him. The RNLI do the same, saving lives, in the UK. I want to raise money because what they do is so important, and they can stop other families being broken up by the tragedies that happen at sea.
So, for 10 days (2-12 June) I’m going to drink only water. Sponsor me as I do the H2Only challenge, in memory of my brother, to raise money for the RNLI and to help save lives in the UK.