Rhys Jack: Drowned man's mother in life-belt appeal

This is the last picture taken of Rhys and his mother Image copyright Lorraine McGarrigle
Image caption This is the last picture taken of Rhys and his mother

The mother of a County Tyrone teenager who drowned in a quarry has called on vandals to stop damaging life-belts.

Rhys Jack, 17, fell into the water from a makeshift raft in the Backtown area of Strabane in May 2012.

In December, a rescue charity warned that lifesaving equipment was being thrown into the River Mourne "at least twice weekly".

Lorraine McGarrigle told the BBC that those responsible need to stop their "mindless behaviour".

"I live every single day with an emptiness in my heart, like half of my heart's gone," she said.

"Obviously the people who are destroying them don't realise this, I think it is just mindless and reckless."

Rhys Jack was the third member of his extended family to die in a drowning tragedy.

'He panicked'

Mourne Search and Rescue said that people entering the water to recover the vandalised equipment were putting their own lives at risk.

Jeff Barr from the group said the repeated vandalism was "causing major public concern" and warned that if equipment is damaged or lost, people could die during an emergency.

Ms McGarrigle said her son might have survived had there been life belts available on the day he died.

"I think the water was just absolutely freezing and he panicked and that was it, he just drowned and nobody could help him that day," she said.

"It's awful because even at the quarry that day, if there had been a life ring, maybe something could have been done but unfortunately that wasn't to be.

"I would never want any parent to go through what I went through."

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