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Wales Online
Wales Online
Neil Shaw

Four boys who died on frozen lake were trying to help each other out of trouble

Four boys died while playing on a frozen lake after one of them plunged through the ice and the others fell in bravely trying to save him, an inquest heard.

Finlay Butler, eight, and his younger brother Samuel, six, perished alongside their cousin Thomas Stewart, 11, and another boy, Jack Johnson, 10.

An inquest heard all four fell into the freezing water as they played on the ice at Babbs Mill Park, in Kingshurst, Solihull, West Mids., on December 11 last year.

Birmingham Coroners Court was told Finlay plunged through the ice first before Thomas, Samuel and Jack fell in when they desperately tried to help him.

Witnesses described seeing the boys in the water screaming for help before they went under the surface during sub-zero temperatures.

Emergency services rushed to the scene at 2pm and police officers ignored safety advice to form a human chain and wade into the lake in a bid to rescue the boys.

Cops used their hands to smash through the ice but were unable to find the boys for another 22 minutes until Jack, Tom and Sam were discovered underwater.

Finlay was recovered from the lake at around 3.05pm having been in the water for 32 minutes but nothing could be done to save any of the tragic youngsters.

The hearing was told all four boys had drowned.

Detective Chief Inspector James Edmonds, of West Midlands Police, told the inquest: "The location is known as Babbs Mill Lake. It's a community used facility, used by lots of people. It's a fairly large lake.

"This tragic incident involves a group of two children, the two groups didn’t know one another. They came across each other. Jack was out playing.

"Jack and his friends were in the area of the skate park when they decided they wanted to go to the lake area to skim stones.

"Jack and his group were the first to arrive at the lake area. They walked on to the surface of the lake, Jack’s gone a little bit further out.

"An independent witness recalled seeing Jack on the ice. A short time later Tom, Fin and Sam arrived on the location. They have also entered on the surface of the lake.

"Fin goes out a little bit further. They interact like children do. It's apparent that Finlay was the first to fall in.

"When they were found they were found toward the bottom of the lake.

"In comparison to the waters edge, it was some distance out. Approximately 12 metres out.

"Fin falling through the lake prompted Tom to go out to the lake and assist. Tom then fell through the ice. Jack and Sam tried to save the other boys.

"At 2.26pm witnesses recall boys in the water and them shouting across.

"Rescue workers formed a human chain to the location where we think the boys went under.

"There's an area of the ice where you can see it’s breaking away.

"The medical advice would have not to have entered the water.

"The were a number of factors that affected that effort. The last person at the end of the chain, the water was up to his chin.

"The air temperature was 5 degrees, but the water would have been much colder.
They used their hands to get through the ice.

"At 2.50pm the fire service arrives. At 2.56pm Jack, Tom and Sam were found underwater.

"They administer CPR on the side of the lake. At 3.05pm Fin was the last boy to be located in the water.

"They'd gone to play on the ice.

"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.

"It's a terrible tragedy, my heart and condolences goes out to the families."

Area Commander Alex Shapland, of West Midlands Fire Service, said crews did all they could to rescue the boys who would have gone into shock.

He said: “We have a number of different water capabilities to affect water rescues.

“The water was extremely cold. When you enter water of that temperature your body goes into shock where it makes it very difficult to function,

"We could not have done any more in the time we had."

Jason Wiles, consultant paramedic for emergency care for West Midlands Ambulance Service, conducted an internal review into the incident.

He said: “On that day it was very cold, there was a layer of ice across. Our paramedics don’t have dry suits or wet suits.

“The first thing you don’t want is for the rescuers to become casualties.

"Every boy had a paramedic-led ambulance and received advanced life support on scene and on the way to hospital.

"I am satisfied all four boys received the best possible care."

Earlier, Birmingham Coroner Louise Hunt read out family tributes to the four boys ahead of the hearing this morning (Fri).

The first to Jack read: "Jack has an amazing soul.

"He did everything he could to make everyone around him smile and they always did. Even on bad days he made you smile."

Tom’s family statement read: “Tom was a kind boy, always had a smile on his face.

"He loved going out on his bike and meeting his friends and making new friends at the park.

"Tom will always be remembered and truly missed by all those who loved and knew him.”

Finlay’s read: “Finlay was an eight-year-old boy full of character and loved by many. He loved the outdoors regardless of the weather.

"He was excelling at school and loved problem solving, and Maths and reading books.

“He liked Pokémon cards and swapping them with kids who didn’t have any. Him and Sam were inseparable.

"Although he was shy and quiet to begin with, he would gain confidence. He was always happy to play with toys and use his imagination.

"He loved dressing up regardless of the occasion. He was loved by his family and loved by his friend.

"As his parents, we couldn’t be prouder of the young man he was becoming.”

Sam’s read: “Sam was the most independent six-year-old that you’ve ever met.

"His two favourite things were Iron Man and fire engines. He was obsessed with fire engines, our very own fireman Sam.

"He loved playing with friends and loved family gatherings.

“Sam loved writing and always read loads to his teachers. Sam found new friends regardless of where he went.

"He was obsessed with dogs and wanted his own sausage dog from Father Christmas. Sam was his own person at such a young age.”

The coroner recorded her conclusion:

Jack died by drowning, the result of an accident.

Tom also died by drowning as the result of an accident.

Finlay died from bleeding and multi-organ dysfunction casued by drowning as the result of an accident.

Sam died from a brain injury as the result of drowning, as the result of an accident.

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