Joe Abbess In memory patient story

Joe Abbess was 17 years old when he was involved in an incident on Bournemouth Beach on 31st May 2023. Tragically, Joe passed away leaving his family and friends heartbroken. His mum, Vanessa, pays tribute to the fabulous young man that he was and we share details of how family and friends came together to raise funds for DSAA.

Joe was enjoying a lovely day at the beach with his friends before the tragedy unfolded and our lives changed forever. I dropped him at the station that morning to meet his friends and get the train to Bournemouth; we could never have imagined that he would not be coming home.

Joe was a wonderful son and brother who is so dearly missed and we are all heartbroken and devastated by his death. Our family and friends will always love him and we are incredibly proud of the fabulous young man he was. He was kind and generous, loving and caring, hardworking and funny. We were privileged to have him in our lives for 17 years and so sorry that he will never be able to fulfil his dreams and ambitions.

Joe was sensible and responsible, his friends described him as the ‘dad of their group’ who cared for and looked after them all but was always great fun. No-one could have anticipated the events that unfolded that day.

Joe could swim and was only waist high in the water, but suddenly the sea conditions changed when a suspected rip current hit, causing him and others to get into difficulty. Eleven people were rescued from the sea that day, but sadly Joe and Sunnah Khan (aged 12 from Buckinghamshire) did not survive.

Joe was a talented trainee chef at City College Southampton and worked with the chef team at Southampton Football Club. He was so proud to wear his chef whites and to be following his dreams. His tutors, fellow students and work colleagues are confident that with his ambition, determination and drive that he would have reached the top of his profession. He had a bright future ahead of him and planned to have his own fine dining restaurant one day.

Joe spent many hours at the gym every week and was a healthy and strong young man. He and his friends were members at Snap Fitness in Woolston, Southampton and well known by the team. After the incident, Joe’s friends were keen to hold a fundraising event in his memory and approached the gym as we all felt this would be the fitting place to hold an open day. The Snap Fitness team were incredibly happy to accommodate this and it went ahead on 23rd September.

The event was really well attended, with support from the local community and those who knew Joe. Franny Belani, Southampton Football Club Ambassador and local football legend, made a guest appearance on behalf of the team and BBC South Today provided coverage. There was a prize raffle draw (with over 100 donated prizes), face painting, a cake stall and fitness classes for people to get involved with. It was an incredibly special way to honour and celebrate Joe’s life, while raising funds for Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance who cared for him that tragic day.

In total, we managed to raise £5,319 with thanks to those who came along and those who donated online. Further donations were raised from Joe’s obituary/funeral and supported Hampshire & IOW Air Ambulance (£1,716) and the RNLI (£1,543).

snap fitness fundraiser for air ambulance in memory of Joe

As we attempt to navigate life without Joe, we hope to help others in his memory by telling his story. Water safety awareness needs to be more broadly discussed and I am supporting the Royal Life Saving Society by promoting their free ‘Water Smart Schools’ initiative. I feel that through educating people about the unpredictability and ferocity of the sea, lives can be saved.

We would like to thank the team at Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance who tried incredibly hard to save Joe on that tragic day. We will always be grateful for this and the ongoing support they provide to our family and Joe’s friends.

The DSAA team that attended Joe’s incident were: DSAA Dorset Outreach Car - Mike Eddie and Stuart Cox. DSAA Helicopter - Tony Doyle, Lauren Dyson, Tony Hanks, Mario Carretta and Jack Cook. Also in attendance were multiple other emergency services.


From all of us at DSAA, our love and thoughts remain with Vanessa and all of Joe’s family and friends at this time. We are so touched that you came together to fundraise for our charity so soon after Joe’s incident. Our support back to you will always be there. 

Joe’s in-memory fundraising page remains open for those that would like to donate:

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