The son of a man who drowned trying to rescue his dog is urging people to stay safe around open water.

Robbie Jones lost his father Gareth who had been out walking the family’s dog Connie near Hove Lagoon on January 16, 2021.

A huge search was launched for the father-of three from Wilbury Gardens, Hove, with hundreds of volunteers supporting emergency teams as they scoured the shoreline across Brighton and Hove.

Connie, the family's brown cockapoo, was found dead on the beach in Brighton two days later on January 18.

The following morning, the 69-year-old Gareth’s body was found at Tide Mills, near Newhaven.

Now, Robbie, 27, has teamed up with the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) to make a film about the devastating impact of losing his father to drowning.

It is hoped that that the tragic incident can help to educate people on the dangers of open water in bad weather and prevent anyone else suffering the same fate.

Robbie said: “I lost my rock that night, at just 24 years old I lost the guy I could talk to about anything and get crucial life advice. My dad was everything to me and to our family.

“Dads die, but they aren’t meant to drown. And not so young. I don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through that and if talking about it can help, then it is important I do it.

“It is my way of honouring him and making something positive out of the worst thing to happen.”

The Argus: Connie the cockapoo was found dead on Brighton beachConnie the cockapoo was found dead on Brighton beach

People from HM Coastguard, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and the RNLI came together to produce the film, which hears from Robbie as he tells the story of losing his dad.

Dawn Whittaker, UK National Fire Chiefs Council drowning prevention lead, NWSF chairwoman and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s chief fire officer, said: “We want to thank Robbie for his willingness to talk to us about the worst moment of his life and to help to create such a powerful, and heart-wrenching, film.

“We think his story will really resonate, everyone can imagine the horror of losing a parent to drowning, but no one should. We hope the film will encourage people to have conversations around water safety and share advice.”

Robbie has worked since to raise awareness of water safety and will be working with East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service community engagement team to visit schools, share his story and deliver crucial messages on water safety.

The video will be available on East Sussex Fire and Rescue's website from Tuesday.

Advice is:

  • If someone is in trouble in the sea, call 999 and ask for the coastguard.
  • For inland waters, ask for Fire and Rescue Service, however be aware HM Coastguard have
  • delegated responsibility for Search and Rescue coordination for some inland waters.
  • Call 999 immediately as the operator will know the appropriate emergency service, but local signs can also help.