A FATHER whose son drowned in the River Thames has issued a plea to prevent others suffering the same tragedy.

Darren Downes has posted a heartfelt video on Facebook in memory of his 16-year-old son Ellis Downes, who died in May 2016 while swimming with friends near Abingdon.

The video, which has been viewed 88,000 times in just three weeks, urges children and adults alike to beware of the dangers of wild swimming.

Speaking to the camera from his home in Harwell, in front of a framed picture of a smiling Ellis, Mr Downes said: "Ellis didn't really know of the dangers.

"We never really told him or educated him about swimming in the river, because we never thought he'd do it.

"Loads of kids out there, parents, older kids, adults even, need to know the dangers of the river.

"I think sadly with Ellis it was the temperature - your body cramps up, the water is colder than you think when you get in.

"That can be fatal, as we sadly found out."

The painter and decorator, who also has two daughters, said he was concerned that in the summer holidays youngsters might be tempted to cool off in rivers.

Appealing to parents, he said: "Tell your kids, educate your kids: the water is not a safe place.

"There are weeds, there are currents.

"Where Ellis was found, everyone thought the water was not very deep but it was six metres deep, which we never would have thought.

"I'd hate for anyone else to go through what me and my family have gone through. Educate them, tell them to keep out of the water and stay safe."

Sharing the public video on his personal Facebook page, Mr Downes said too many children are still losing their lives to the water.

Almost 100 comments have been posted on the video, commending him for speaking out.

Ellis, who had ambitions to become a farmer, studied forestry and land management at Abingdon and Witney College.

His death struck the core of the Harwell community and at his funeral, his two sisters remembered him as a mischievous and much-loved little brother.

The teenager had been swimming in the Thames in Culham with friends on the night of May 7, 2016, and disappeared after struggling to keep afloat.

Despite brave efforts of his friends, who jumped in to try to rescue him, his body was not recovered until two days later by specialist divers.

Both Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and the the Environment Agency shared river safety campaigns this summer, urging people not to take the risk.

Last month a 12-year-old girl was rescued from the River Windrush near Witney, having almost drowned while swimming.