THE FAMILY of two boys who died while swimming a year ago are using the tragedy to warn of the danger’s of open water.

Jason Varghese, 15, and his cousin Joel Aniyankunj, 19, from Bolton, were on holiday in Austria last summer when both drowned while getting into difficulty on a boat trip.

Jason’s mother Suby Varghese, has spoken out about the heart-breaking event, and warned others to be careful around lakes and rivers.

The youngsters had been on a trip with other members of their family on August 23, 2018, and had planned to go swimming in a lake. Unfortunately, Jason got into trouble while in the water and his when his older cousin went in to help they both disappeared under the surface.

It is thought that the pair, who were both strong swimmers, had become tangled in thick undergrowth.

“They were loving, caring boys – there was never a bad thing to say about them,” Mrs Varghese said.

“Parents should be aware of dangers around open water – we don’t want any other family to go through what we have – we miss them every day. They were so full of life and we can’t get over the fact they’re still not here – it’s still very raw, as if it happened yesterday.

“They were loving, caring boys – there was never a bad thing to say about them. The fact that they’re not here is heart-breaking – had we known the dangers we wouldn’t have sent them that day.”

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Jason was a student at St James’ High School in Farnworth, and was due to start his final year there in September 2018.

The school’s headteacher, Tania Lewyckji, said the tragic incident had been “very difficult” for pupils and teachers.

“This has had a massive impact on the school as you can imagine, when Year 11 came back from the holidays – all our children sit in the same seat in assembly from Year 7 to 11 and for the first time there was an empty chair - that really hit home with the children,” she said.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of not going near the water, not going out there when there’s no life-guard, even if you think you are a strong swimmer. Jason was a strong swimmer.

“It’s just not worth the risk.”

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Joining Mrs Lewyckji were two of Jason’s schoolfriends Robbie Woodcock and Sam Gibbons, who are now both 16-years-old.

The pair spoke about the heartbreaking moment they out that their friend would not return from his holiday.

Robbie said: “Last year I was talking to Jason before he went on holiday about joining the gym, and a few days later I got a message to say he had drowned on holiday. Since Jason has passed away we all miss him loads, especially at times like our prom – which he was really looking forward to and it’s a shame he wasn’t there with us.”

Sam added: “I was on holiday at the same time as Jason and I got a text from Robbie. At first I didn’t believe it because we had recently all been talking in a group, and before that we had played football together. It hit us all hard.”

Joel and Jason’s family and friends were speaking as part of a public campaign from fire services and the police called Safe4Summer to promote safety in open water.

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Fire crew area manager Damian O’Rourke said: “We really appreciate Jason and Joel’s loved ones supporting our water safety campaigns and work.

“Hearing from people who have lost family members and friends is extremely sad but really helps strengthen our safety messages and advice, with the ultimate aim of keeping people out of harm’s way.”

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