Almost a year since he perished in Scarborough’s South Bay waters, tragic Andrew McGeown’s sister admits she still struggles to accept he is no longer there.
This Monday marks a year since the ultra-popular 32-year-old drowned after diving into the North Sea to rescue his Staffordshire Bull Terrier Arnold.
Over £11,000 has since been raised by family and friends to cement Andrew’s legacy, and to help prevent similar tragedies at sea.
But while she’s proud of the legacy he is leaving, speaking ahead of the ill-fated anniversary, his sister Donna Loveland says she tries to blank out the “horrific” events of last February 22.
“I try not to think about it, but when I do I just remember it being this horrible, cold wintry night,” said 37-year-old Donna.
“Some days I think it actually hasn’t happened.”
But the incident was all too real for both Andrew and the rescuers who risked life and limb to save a man they knew as a friend.
The RNLI volunteers that braved those stormy seas that night have since been honoured for what has been dubbed one of the worst rescue missions faced by RNLI volunteers in living memory.
Scarborough RNLI Helmsman Rudi Barman was presented with a rare RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry for his role.
And while they couldn’t save his life, their heroics helped spark fundraising around town on behalf of Andrew.
Cash raised from events including a three-legged pub crawl and a charity rugby league game featuring Andrew’s beloved Scarborough Pirates will be used to help fund new seafront safety signage, and to fund a swim safe course for the coast’s youngsters to keep them from danger in the borough’s open waters.
“From vital safety information provided on beach signage through to the Swim Safe programme, Andrew’s legacy is truly invaluable and it will help to keep beach and sea users safe for generations to come,” said Helen Williams, RNLI Community Incident Reduction Manager.
“The Andrew McGeown Legacy Fund will ensure that key sea safety messages reach local people and the many visitors that come to enjoy the Yorkshire Coast each year.”
However, while the cash means Andrew will leave a legacy, his untimely death has left a grieving family without a brother and son – and hundreds in Scarborough without their friend.
“When he died, the outpouring was incredible,” added Donna. “He was more popular than even we had thought.”
Scores of Facebook tributes sprung up in the immediate aftermath of his death, while in the following weeks public tributes, including a graffiti mural, were left around Scarborough.
And as the family prepare to mark a year since his death, the focus has now shifted from mourning him to celebrating the fun-loving roofer.
Last week they celebrated what would have been his 33rd birthday with a huge party, and Donna said his legacy is crucial in keeping his spirit alive.
“All I want is Andrew to be remembered for the type of person that he was – a fun one.” she added.
“Having to deal with all of this isn’t something anybody ever wants to have to do but if we hadn’t then Andrew wouldn’t have had the legacy he deserves.
“Having this legacy will hopefully mean it will help people of all different ages and that Andrew will live on in everyone’s hearts.”