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Charity

Community unites to honour the memory of Zac Thompson

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AS SUMMER approaches and the county prepares for another holiday season, the community of Pembrokeshire stands determined to ensure that the tragic passing of 11-year-old Zac Thompson on West Angle beach last year does not become just another statistic.

One year has passed since Zac, described as “cheeky, mischievous, and loyal,” lost his life in a devastating drowning incident.

His family and friends, joined by a small group of coaches and parents, have established Forever11, a charity aimed at finding solace and promoting sea safety awareness in Zac’s name.

On that fateful evening in July, Zac, a pupil at Pembroke Dock Community School, had no intention of venturing into the sea. Accompanied by his elder brother and their 11-year-old cousin, they had gathered on the beach to witness the beauty of the sunset. Tragically, an unexpected “freak wave” swept the boys off the rocks, and Zac found himself caught in a powerful whirlpool.

Although his two family members managed to scramble to safety on nearby rocks, Zac succumbed to the water’s grasp.

A vigilant member of the public brought him to the shoreline, where emergency services were waiting. He was swiftly airlifted to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, but tragically passed away the following day.

This heartbreaking incident had a profound impact on the close-knit community, particularly Zac’s rugby team.

In response to this senseless loss, a dedicated group of coaches and parents formed Forever11, aiming to bring forth positivity in the face of tragedy. Natalie John, aged 35, and Lucy Cawley, both trustees of the charity, refer to their group as “one big family.”

Since its inception, Forever11 has managed to raise £11,000 through a family fun day held last August, as well as an additional £5,000 from various events.

The charity’s simple yet powerful mission is to educate the local community about sea safety and awareness.

This message carries profound significance in Pembrokeshire, a region marked by one of the highest rates of water-related fatalities in Wales. Natalie highlighted that a significant portion of these incidents involve individuals who had no intention of entering the water.

Lucy, a mother of two boys herself, struggles to comprehend the loss: “You just can’t imagine living without your children.” Zac was an enthusiastic sportsman and a capable swimmer.

Lucy described him as “cheeky, mischievous, very, very loyal to his mates, incredibly kind and compassionate.” Natalie, a mother of four boys whose husband coached Zac’s rugby team, added that he was protective, ensuring fairness and kindness towards others. He possessed a gentle and caring nature.

These sentiments echo the heartfelt tribute shared by Zac’s mother, Carli Newell, a journalist at The Pembrokeshire Herald. During the inquest she said: “Zac was a complete one of a kind. He was funny, cheeky, kind, caring, courageous, and a big ball of fun with mischief running through his bones.”

Zac’s magnetic charm, coupled with his striking features and piercing blue eyes, left a lasting impression on all who knew him.

Natalie and Lucy fondly remember how he had the innate ability to bring a smile to anyone’s face. “He was one of those kids who could walk into a room not knowing anyone but he would walk out with 100 new friends,” they remarked. “You were just drawn to him.”

A talented sportsman, Zac excelled in various disciplines, with football being his greatest passion. He played at county level and represented the Swansea City academy. Lucy attests that he possessed the talent to pursue a professional football career.

Additionally, he demonstrated his sporting prowess in rugby, where he was regarded as a superstar within his team. In August following his passing, Zac’s teammates organized a memorial football and rugby match to honor his memory and facilitate healing through open conversations.

Zac’s circle of friends had been together since the age of four, and their memories of him are cherished. Reflecting on the tragedy,

Natalie emphasised that it struck a chord with everyone, as it could have happened to any of them. Determined to ensure Zac’s memory endures, she intends to make this year’s fun day, scheduled for July 22 to coincide with Zac’s funeral anniversary, even more significant than the previous one.

Image credit: RNLI David Barrett

Originally intended as a one-off event, the inaugural fun day garnered overwhelming support from the community, raising over £10,000, which was split between the Wales Air Ambulance and Angle RNLI, organizations that provided aid during Zac’s rescue. Subsequently, Forever11 attained official charity status, enabling them to focus on water safety and drowning prevention in Pembrokeshire.

The charity’s efforts thus far have included identifying and replacing broken or missing life-saving equipment, such as life rings and throw ropes, along the coastline.

Additionally, they conducted their first free water safety awareness course for 32 schoolchildren. However, their ambitions extend further, recognizing the importance of educating children in real-world beach scenarios.

Natalie observed that despite living in a coastal region, many children have not experienced the beach. While it is impossible to shield children from all dangers, raising awareness and providing knowledge about tides, winds, and water conditions can make a significant difference.

Natalie shared, “Living on the coast, it’s surprising the number of children who haven’t been to the beach.” Through their initiatives, Forever11 aims to instill a sense of vigilance and preparedness among young beachgoers.

Reflecting on the establishment of Forever11, the team stated, “Forever11 started out as a saying by Zac’s school and teammates. It’s something that resonated across the community as a symbol of our love and heartache – a loss that impacted and shocked everyone who knew him. We often talk about the rugby family, and for us, Zac was part of that family.”

This year’s fun day promises to be an engaging event, featuring a samba band, performances by the Kelly Williams school of dance, axe-throwing and archery by Paddle West, and music by Honey Fungus. Traditional stalls, a display by the Pembrokeshire fire spinners, and various inflatable attractions will also be available for attendees.

More details can be found on the Forever11 website as the community rallies together to honor the cherished memory of Zac Thompson and prevent future tragedies in the waters surrounding Pembrokeshire

Charity

Two more shouts for the busy Angle RNLI crew

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AT 5:47am on Sunday 16 (Jun 16), Angle All-Weather Lifeboat was requested to launch to assist a police incident at Hakin Point, Milford Haven.

The lifeboat launched and proceeded to a discreet location amongst the Cunjic moorings. After a short period, the incident was successfully resolved and the crew were stood down to return to station.

The lifeboat was back on her mooring and readied for further service by 6:45am.

A couple of days later on Tuesday (Jun 18) the crew were paged again at 11:52am following the activation of a SART (Search and Rescue Transponder) in the vicinity of Popton Fort/Valero western approach road.

The lifeboat launched and made best speed to the area with the intention of commencing a search. En route, the lifeboats Y boat was prepared to be deployed to search closer inshore.

Once on scene, the lifeboat was met by a Svitzer safety boat working on the site who informed them that they believed the activation to be from some scaffolders working on the jetty.

The lifeboat was manoeuvred as close to the jetty as possible, where the scaffolders were requested to work with the jetty operator to confirm if the activation had come from themselves.

Following around 30 minutes of investigation on scene it was confirmed that one of the worker’s lifejackets had been the cause of the activation. With the MMSI numbers from the activation matched, the crew were stood down by the Coastguard when it was confirmed that nobody was believed to be in difficulty.

The lifeboat was back on her mooring and ready for service once again around 1:30pm.

No photo description available.
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Charity

Thousands enjoy RNLI Lifeboat Festival at Pembroke Castle

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ON Father’s Day (Jun 16), more than 1,650 people descended on Pembroke Castle for a day of family fun at to mark 200 years of saving lives at sea for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

The medieval venue played host to the RNLI’s Lifeboat Festival and opened its gates for the public to meet local lifesavers and have fun while learning how to stay safe in the water with the RNLI Water Safety team.

Revellers enjoyed live music from Goodwick Brass Band, Henry Tudor School (Ysgol Harri Tudur) who showcased highlights from their upcoming performance of Peter Pan, Pembroke and District Male Voice Choir, shanty band Cockles and Mussels, Tenby Male Voice Choir, folk rockers Razor Bill, and Calico Jack.

The RNLI has been saving lives at sea for more than 200 years, in which time its volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved 146,452 lives – this equates to an average of two lives saved every day for 200 years.

The charity was founded in a London tavern on 4 March 1824 following an appeal from Sir William Hillary, who lived on the Isle of Man and witnessed many shipwrecks, the RNLI has continued saving lives at sea throughout the tests of its history, including tragic disasters, funding challenges and two World Wars.

Two centuries have seen vast developments in the lifeboats and kit used by the charity’s lifesavers – from the early oar-powered vessels to today’s technology-packed boats, which are now built in-house by the charity; and from the rudimentary cork lifejackets of the 1850s to the full protective kit each crew member is now issued with.

The RNLI’s lifesaving reach and remit has also developed over the course of 200 years. Today, it operates 238 lifeboat stations, including four on the River Thames, and has seasonal lifeguards on over 240 lifeguarded beaches around the UK and Ireland. It designs and builds its own lifeboats and runs domestic and international water safety programmes.

While much has changed in 200 years, two things have remained the same – the charity’s dependence on volunteers, who give their time and commitment to save others, and the voluntary contributions from the public which have funded the service for the past two centuries.

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Charity

Cosheston Open Gardens raises £4300 for brain tumour charity

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A REMARKABLE £4300 was raised for The Brain Tumour Charity during the Cosheston Open Gardens event near Pembroke last weekend. On Saturday, 15th June, the usually quiet village saw its streets filled with visitors exploring the gardens both within the village and near the estuary. The event was well-signposted with special signage and adorned with floral displays, including a pot display at The Cross, Cosheston, sponsored by Grandiflora Nursery, with additional support from Milford Haven Port Authority for banners and programmes.

The village hall buzzed with activity throughout the day as visitors purchased from a well-stocked plant stall and enjoyed a variety of cakes and teas provided by Cosheston WI and community members. Local resident Ela Robinson showcased a delightful display of her porcelain flower craft work. Additionally, a raffle with prizes donated by community businesses raised £600 for the charity. In the afternoon, visitors enjoyed demonstrations on creating sedum baskets and simple floral displays.

Organisers Jane and Alan Mason expressed their gratitude, stating, “Many thanks to the friendly people of Pembrokeshire who came from all over the county and as far afield as Derbyshire to visit our gardens. We must have had several hundred people coming to the village. We are also grateful to over 66 members of the local community who came together to provide marshals, programme sales, signs, plants, and cakes. Our biggest disappointment was that we were all so busy the volunteers did not have time to visit the gardens ourselves.”

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