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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Zoe Tidman

Solihull tragedy: Causes of deaths revealed for boys who fell into frozen lake

West Midlands Police

Four boys who fell through the ice on a frozen lake in Solihull died from drowning, an inquest hearing has been told.

Samuel and Finlay Butler, aged six and eight, and their 11-year-old cousin Thomas Stewart died after the tragedy in Babbs Mill Park.

Ten-year-old Jack Johnson also lost his life in the incident earlier this month.

An initial inquest was held into their deaths on Monday and was told three of the boys were rescued after 22 minutes in the water, while a fourth was pulled from the icy lake after 31 minutes.

Senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Louise Hunt described the circumstances as a “devastating tragedy” as she opened and adjourned the four inquests.

She said: “I think, in respect, it is fair to say they very sadly died from the effect of drowning.”

Ms Hunt heard evidence from detective inspector Jim Edmonds from West Midlands Police, who gave details of how people initially raised the alarm and the subsequent “heroic efforts” of the emergency services to save the boys.

Brothers Finlay and Samuel Butler and their cousin Thomas Stewart died in the tragedy (West Midlands Police)

Mr Edmonds said: “West Midlands Police first contact at 2.34pm on Sunday 11 December, reporting four children playing on a frozen lake at Babbs Mill Park had fallen through the ice, into the water.

“Further calls were received from other members of the public, also reporting children had fallen into the water, but with some variance as to the number of children involved.

“Emergency services responded at pace and at arrival it became quite apparent this was a major incident and there were numerous members of the public at the location, reporting children had tragically fallen under the water.”

Turning to the rescues, Mr Edmonds said: “The first three boys were located and brought to the bank at 2.56pm, the same day, and approximately nine minutes later a fourth was rescued from the water.

Tributes at a makeshift shrine near the Babbs Mill Lake, in Kinghurst, Solihull. (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)

“Emergency CPR was performed on the children at the scene and they were taken to local hospitals where they received further treatment,” he said.

Ten-year-old Jack and 11-year-old Thomas died on the same day of the tragedy, while eight-year-old Finlay died the following day, he said. Six-year-old Samuel died in hospital several days later.

Flowers and tributes near to Babbs Mill Park in Kingshurst, Solihull, after the deaths of three boys aged eight, 10 and 11 who fell through ice into a lake in the West Midlands (PA)

Mr Edmonds from West Midlands Police said an investigation was underway on behalf of the coroner to establish the facts of the boy’s attendance at the lake and how they fell into the water.

Setting an inquest to be heard on 6 July next year, Ms Hunt said: “The scope of the inquest will be to look at the circumstances leading to the deaths and the cause of death.”

She added the inquest would hear a pen portrait of each little boy from a family member, overviews from each of the three emergency services involved about their responses, together with evidence of the hospital care given.

Having set out the initial cause of death as drowning, she added “no post-mortem would be required - to preserve the dignity and respect of each little boy”.

She addressed her closing remarks to the boys’ families, none of whom were physically present in court, and said: “I’d like to offer you all my sincere condolences.

“Your boys’ deaths are a devastating tragedy for you all and it is difficult for us all to comprehend the pain and grief you all must feel at this terrible time.

“In due course, I hope the inquest will help you understand what happened, including the valiant attempts by the emergency services to save the boys.”

Tributes have been flooding in for the boys since the tragedy on 11 December.

Hundreds attended a candlelit vigil for the four young victims in Solihull at the weekend.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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