Mother of woman who drowned at Green Island: ‘I want people to be aware of the risks and respect our waters’
TO her credit, Kim Noble had little hesitation in agreeing to return to a location that she will always associate with a family tragedy.
Mrs Noble made the journey to Green Island to the spot where her daughter Joy Godfray was swept out to sea in 2016, hoping that by speaking further about the accident she would remind Islanders about the potential dangers of the sea.
The warning is timely, as it comes at a point when significant numbers of Islanders have been heading to the coast as coronavirus lockdown restrictions have been eased, even though lifeguard patrols are only just beginning after normal service was delayed by the pandemic. Currently there is only lifeguard cover at St Ouen’s Bay.
Although Miss Godfray was a strong swimmer, the treacherous conditions that had arrived quickly at the end of the pleasant summer’s day in August 2016 were too much for her and a lifeboat crew’s hour-long battle to reach her came too late to save her life. It was the day before her 32nd birthday.
Mrs Noble said she had been able to move on – to some extent – from the ‘horrific’ experience of four years ago, and her daughter’s inquest six months later.
‘At first I couldn’t look at the sea, but then I forced myself to go down to the shore because, logically, I live in an island and the sea is all around.
‘I used to love watching the waves crash over the rocks and found it relaxing, but now I’ll only go when it’s calm, and if there’s a ship in rough waters on the television, I can’t watch.
‘I see children playing on the beach and find myself looking out for them if their parents turn away for a second.’
The loss was particularly harsh for Mrs Noble, as she had been receiving medical treatment in the UK earlier in 2016.
‘Joy had been a huge support to me that year,’ she said. ‘I had got a new passport and was planning to go off with her for a surprise break, but she never found out what I had planned.’
Mrs Noble said the family, which includes her sons Brian and Matthew, and her second-husband, Jason, had been cheered by a new arrival in early 2019, when her younger daughter, Annie, gave birth to a girl, who she named Kimberley Joy. Annie Noble organised a sea-safety campaign the year after her sister’s death, producing and distributing information cards for Island schools and raising funds to cover the replacement of ageing lifesaving equipment around the shoreline.
Mrs Noble said the dangers of Jersey’s strong tides had been emphasised by her first husband, Ken Godfray, Miss Godfray’s father, who died in 2000.
‘He used to warn the children about the water,’ she said. ‘Joy and a friend had come here for a paddle, which I believe turned into a swim. I will never have the full story, although I was able to speak to the lifeboat crew member who pulled her out, and I was so grateful they were able to get her out of the water and bring her home.
‘From the day this happened I have never had a full night’s sleep and I never want another parent to go through this.
‘I wake in the night seeing her struggling in the sea, exhausted and panicking and trying to get back.
‘Nothing will change this for me – no-one has a monopoly on grief, but to lose a child in this way and having it described moment by moment during an inquest is not something you can get out of your mind.’
In reminding Islanders of the potential risks of going in the water, Mrs Noble said that it was a question of striking a balance.
‘I used to jump into the sea with friends when I was young and my father would have had 40 fits if he’d known what I was doing,’ she admitted.
‘I never saw fear and young people today are still doing it.
‘I don’t want people to stop having fun. I just want them to be aware of the risks and the need to respect our waters. It only takes a moment.’
Mrs Noble added that she was concerned there could be other casualties if people ignored the risks associated with sea swimming.
‘I see people posting on Facebook about swimming, or going down to take pictures when the seas are rough or there’s a really high tide, and I don’t think they see the danger,’ she said. ‘I can’t help going back to them and saying they should stay away – if it makes one person stop and think then it will be worth it.
‘I don’t want people to stop having fun. I just want them to be aware of the risk – we need to respect our waters far more. It can only take a moment, like it did with Joy.’
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