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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Antony Thrower & Josh Sandiford & Naomi DeSouza

Four boys died in frozen lake after going out to feed the ducks and skim stones

Schoolboys who died when they fell through an icy lake had been skimming stones and feeding ducks, an inquest heard.

Last December, 10-year-old Jack Johnson had jumped into Babbs Mill Lake in Solihull, near Birmingham, after hearing the screams of three children struggling in the water. Jack - as well as brothers Samuel and Finlay Butler, six and eight - died along with their cousin Thomas Stewart, 11, in the tragedy.

The boys tragically died after jumping into the water to help each, as Fin fell through the ice while feeding the ducks. Tom subsequently jumped in to help, followed by Sam.

Finlay and Samuel Butler (left), Thomas Stewart (centre) and Jack Johnson (with his father, right) died in the incident (West Midlands Police / SWNS)

Coroner Louise Hunt described the four deaths as a "devastating tragedy".

She said: “Very sadly on December 11 last year, West Midlands Police were called to Babbs Mill lake to reports that boys had fallen through the ice in the lake. The water temperature was very cold.

“We heard how Jack was playing with his friends and the skate park, then they walked around to where the tragedy occurred and Jack and his friends go onto the ice.

"A short time later, Tom, Fin and Sam arrive in the area and they decide to go and feed the ducks.

“Sadly Fin and Sam also went onto the ice. Fin had seemed to be chatting, making friends. Sadly Fin fell through the ice, some distance out, we now know it was 12 metres.


"Tom tried to help but he fell in, Jack tried to help but he fell in. Sam also fell in but that wasn’t witnessed.

"After a short period, they went under the water."

Detective Inspector James Edmonds described how police officers formed a human chain in an attempt to save the boys’ lives, BirminghamLive reported.

Proceedings also heard how Sam, Finlay and Thomas had been skimming stones on the lake when they got into difficulties, prompting Jack's attempted rescue.

He told proceedings: “Two groups had come across each other. They went out onto the ice to play as children might do.

"For reasons unbeknown, the ice has broken away. It has become fragmented and that has resulted in the boys falling through the ice and into the freezing cold water.

"The impacts of the water temperature would have significantly contributed to the boys being unable to stay afloat. When they were found they were found toward the bottom of the lake."

“Officers used their hands to get through the ice but were unable to reach the children.

(Darren Quinton/Birmingham Live)

“They were aware of the dangers of the lake but we had an unusual cold period of time that week and as part of the investigation we uncovered images of members of the community playing on the ice.

“It was perhaps a lack of community awareness of the dangers that existed."

Jason Wiles, consultant paramedic for emergency care for West Midlands Ambulance Service, said today one officer was up to his neck in water and could have become a casualty himself.

An initial inquest hearing, held in Birmingham in December last year was told three of the boys were rescued after 22 minutes in the water, while the fourth was pulled from the lake after 31 minutes.

Jack and Thomas both died at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital on December 11, while Finlay and Samuel both died at Birmingham Children's Hospital on December 12 and December 14.

Today West Midlands Fire Service Area Commander Alex Shapland said firefighters could not have done more.

He said: "When you enter water of that temperature your body essentially goes into shock. It makes it very difficult to function, especially if you are wearing a limited amount of clothes.

"We could not have done any more in the time we had. We have reviewed all the response and prevention activities we could do and look to enhance."

Their deaths prompted an outpouring of grief from the local community with toys and cards left at a shrine in their memory.

Senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Louise Hunt gave a conclusion the four boys died from drowning as a result of a tragic accident.

She added: “The very sad conclusion I have to reach is that each boy died as a result of drowning having fallen in the freezing cold water. I'm satisfied the emergency services on the scene undertook considerable efforts to try and save the boys and treat them at the scene.

"I'm satisfied the treatment of each boy at hospital was in accordance with acceptable protocol. Everyone did all they could and they should be commended for their actions. But unfortunately sadly each boy has died as a result of a terrible accident."

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