The family of a kayaker whose body was found on the Caithness coast after a major search has launched a campaign to encourage the use of personal locator beacons.
Dominic Jackson was reported missing in early February after heading out for a sea kayaking trip from Portsoy.
His body was found six days later in the water at Lybster, 50 miles away across the Moray Firth.
His family issued a statement through Police Scotland, thanking all those who helped in the search for the 35-year-old, but urging anyone heading out on a similar trip to consider using a PLB, which can be used to send a distress signal.
They said: “A full scale land, air and sea search and rescue operation was launched involving the dedicated members and volunteers of the RNLI, police and HM Coastguard.
“The search also involved teams of local people, together with Dom’s family and friends scouring the cliff tops searching for any sign of Dom. This was sometimes at great personal risk due to the rugged nature of the coastline in this area and his family are forever grateful to the brave and wonderful people within these communities.
“Since Dom was first reported as going missing by his housemate on Sunday 5 February after failing to return home, the search to find Dom was filled with the hope and prayers of thousands of people right around the world who followed every media and social media update.
“Sadly Dom was most likely already dead before anyone even knew he was missing, an outcome which could have so easily been avoided had he been aware of and taken basic safety gear.
“Dom’s family, father Jeremy, brothers Stuart and Leighton, sisters Kirstie, Kate and Ellie together with his large extended family and friends have all undergone a tremendous ordeal and in the midst of their grief are determined that Dom’s life will not have been lost in vain.
“Dom was the much loved youngest brother of six siblings. His parents were keen campers and hikers and this is where a love of the outdoors began with weekend camping trips and half-terms spent walking the south Devon coastal path.
“Dom and his family also spent a large majority of their holidays at their holiday home on the monastic island of Caldey, off Tenby in south-west Wales. An idyllic beach existence including rock-climbing, caving, snorkelling, swimming and fishing. The children had the freedom to explore and create their own adventures which is hard to find in modern life.
“Dom continued his adventures with time spent in Cubs and Scouts, learning to kayak, sail, climb and hike, then taking part in the Tall Ships Race with the London Sailing Project. After a year travelling in Australia, he went to the University of Manchester to study environmental science and began a career in the oil industry in Aberdeen.
“After 10 years in an office, Dom realised his love of nature and being outside was too important to ignore and leaving an industry where he was highly respected, he began his own gardening business in Laurencekirk. Three years later, he and his partner have built up a successful business from scratch.
“Dom had just recently found himself at a time in his life with very little responsibilities and so after working hard all week in a physically demanding job, he would venture out into the beauty of the Scottish Highlands and Islands looking for new challenges and experiences.
“It was his confidence in his own physical fitness and capabilities together with an under-appreciation for the dangers he was placing himself in that has ultimately led to his death.
“This is what makes his loss so hard for the family to bear as it was completely unnecessary had he made some basic preparations.”
Ellie Jackson, who lives in Australia, has set up a fundraising page to start a charity, PLanB, which raised £8,000 in just four days. PLanB’s aim is to make sure that anyone who participates in adventurous sports or actives has a Plan B for when the unexpected might happen and they find themselves in an emergency situation.
His family’s statement said: “Dom should have taken some very basic safety precautions such as logging in and out with family or friends and HM Coastguard to let them know of his plans for the day.
“He should have had more adequate provisions or survival gear especially when heading out into the freezing conditions. He should have had easy access to his mobile phone which was stored in a difficult-to-access hatch behind his seat. He also should have been wearing a personal locator beacon.”
When activated in an emergency a PLB, which uses GPS technology, can pinpoint the user’s location to within a few metres.
“They are relatively inexpensive, under £200, are lightweight and are not only for use when out on the water for kayakers, sailors, kite and windsurfers etc but can also be used for many land based adventures such as climbing, mountain biking and hillwalking,” the family said. “They are an invaluable piece of equipment to help locate you and should always be part of your Plan B emergency kit.”
They said money raised will be spent on initial costs involved in setting up a charity in Mr Jackson’s name. “Once the charity has been set up and working together with the support of the RNLI, the overall aim will be to campaign to raise awareness of the use of PLBs and correct sea-safety logging procedures via an app and website.
“Further down the track, we would be looking to provide educational material to support the teaching of this information to children and adults to ensure that carrying a PLB at sea is as common to everyone as wearing a seatbelt in a car or a lifejacket on the water.
“We would also be looking to create the ability to hire out PLBs, and to fund the availability of PLBs to groups of water-users and charities.”
The family added: “A PLB can be bought as a present to a loved one, a gift to yourself or can even be hired if the costs of owning one are prohibitive.
“There is no price that can be put on a life as Dom and his family have tragically learnt throughout their ordeal and they are determined that no other family should have to suffer this terrible loss.”