A WORCESTER councillor has told of his experience nearly drowning as a boy - with children now being offered FREE swimming lessons so they avoid the same fate.

As a youngster Cllr Jabba Riaz could not swim, which almost sparked a tragedy when he leapt off the old diving board at Worcester's Sansome Walk pool aged around 10.

He ended up near the bottom of the pool helplessly stuck, fearing for his life in the ensuing panic before a lifeguard was able to leap in and drag him to safety.

Now he wants other families to be aware of the perils of water, offering other children a deal which could change lives.

At Worcester's new £10.5 million pool, which will open its doors in January, all primary school pupils who cannot swim 25 metres are being offered free swimming lessons.

The olive branch is aimed at making sure no young children go through what he suffered.

Cllr Riaz, a Labour cabinet member responsible for overseeing the pool project, said: "My experience as a young child not being able to swim is not something anyone else should go through.

"Foolishly, as a dare I went off the diving board at Sansome Walk and ended up near the bottom, I was stuck before the lifeguard helped me.

"It was 100 per cent scary, those kind of experiences are not the best in life, they really shake you up.

"As a result other swimmers have always been at the forefront of my mind."

Cllr Riaz did eventually learn to swim when he was aged around 12, and says he wants today's young people to get competent earlier.

"Nobody should reach the age of Year 6 and not be able to swim - hopefully this will make a difference and help others not experience what I did," he added.

Evesham Journal:

The new eight-lane pool, at Perdiswell Leisure Centre, will open its doors on January 7.

To take advantage of the offer, families will be told to contact the pool's management Freedom Leisure once the facility opens.

A spokesperson for Worcester Swimming Club said: "Anything that supports people in helping them swim has to be a good initiative."