On the 14th August 2006, 15 year old Christopher Turnbull went to Capel Curig a beauty spot in North Wales UK with 5 friends and never came home – that day Chris drowned.
Chris was an excellent swimmer and loved the outdoors he had learned to swim very young age 3 when he fell into a swimming pool with a deflated arm band and started to swim. All his life on holidays he was in the water, and in his teenage years his parents John and Debbie took over a country pub in the Conwy Valley in an idyllic setting. The 5 years that they were there Chris joined a group of Cadets, mostly all older, and spent his young years canoeing, swimming, making rafts and generally sending tie camping and having the ‘time of his life’.
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That particular day it was a Monday after the weekend of extremely heavy rainfall and in the aftermath of a very hot summer the mountains were covered in cloud and the boys saw a very different scene than they had all through the summer where they had spent hours swimming in the calm beautiful place that was almost their secret. They walked upstream just chatting and having fun and when they arrived at the area for the first time they saw the huge waterfall – it took them by surprise. Behind the waterfall up above was a bridge where a couple of the boys went to watch the others. It was the time when mobile phones had just brought the ability to film and it was all the rage. The boys were fooling around and Chris climbed up to the ledge – typical of his nature gave the big thumbs up and turned to smile at them – as he turned around he slipped and fell into the rapids. Unknown to Chris, his friends and us the spot was notorious for canoeist accidents and his mother Debbie found that Chris was the 5th person to drown there. Chris was forced by 3 channels of water coming from different angles backwards into a cave under the waterfall whereby he trapped his trainer under the root of a tree under the water. After a lengthy search of 2 helicopters – mountain rescue – police – fire service and 70 people including search dogs - a team of divers found his body at 7.03 that evening. It was believed that Chris would have floated downstream – however no one was aware of the cave – a search dog that was trained to find bodies repeatedly returned to the spot and fortunately the diver knew the dog knew Chris was there.
Says Debbie “The loss of my son almost killed me – I tried to take my own life on 2 occasions. Chris was everyone’s friend and guide, extremely intuitive sensitive and so loving and way beyond his years in many things. Sadly Water Safety had not been taught to him or his friends. We were so close and had the most amazing conversations way beyond his remit – I feel he was Heaven sent.
Debbie has since set up River And Sea Sense and has addressed over 240.000 young people in the 11.5 years since Chris’s death. Debbie has worked in Wales and across the UK telling her story and stressing the dangers of open water. Her presentations are passionate and revealing raw and honest and sometimes she becomes emotional. Her message is clear but never does she create FEAR. FEAR, says Debbie, gives way to peer pressure daring and more. Debbie has trained in many personal development fields including NLP and stresses that her message is to – Live Life To The Max whilst being aware of the dangers in all aspects of life.
My work helps me heal and I trust and truly feel and know Christopher is my Guide ….
Our visits are less frequent now to the place where Chris died but we throw a single golden rose in the water in his memory it always finds its way through the rapids to the spot where Chris drowned.
Debbie last year won – The National UK Lottery Special Achievement Award for her 11 years of service to Drowning Prevention – “ I really could not believe it meeting so many wonderful people who really got my story."
Bear Grylls presented the award alongside Ore Oduba and a host of Celebrities gave her a standing ovation.